Police: Hotel altercation sparked Vegas shooting

Smoke and flames billow from a burning vehicle following a shooting and multi-car accident on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. The Las Vegas Strip became a scene of deadly violence early Thursday when, authorities say, someone in a black Range Rover opened fire on a Maserati, sending it crashing into a taxi that burst into flames, leaving three people dead and at least six injured. (AP Photo/Erik Lackey)

Smoke and flames billow from a burning vehicle following a shooting and multi-car accident on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. The Las Vegas Strip became a scene of deadly violence early Thursday when, authorities say, someone in a black Range Rover opened fire on a Maserati, sending it crashing into a taxi that burst into flames, leaving three people dead and at least six injured. (AP Photo/Erik Lackey)

Video from NBC-2

LAS VEGAS — Bullets were flying from a black Range Rover at a gray Maserati as the vehicles raced toward a red light on the Las Vegas Strip.

Beneath the neon lights, police say, the Maserati ran a red light at one of the Strip's busiest intersections and smashed into a taxi that exploded into flames early Thursday, killing the two people inside.

Three more cars and a utility truck also collided at the crossroads home to Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's, injuring at least six more people as the Range Rover sped off in the pre-dawn darkness.

The Maserati driver was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The dramatic scene that more than one tourist compared to something out of a violent action movie set off a frantic search for the occupants of the Range Rover that continued into the night, and marked the latest violent episode on the Strip since the beginning of the year.

Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage Feb. 6, and a tourist was stabbed Saturday in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told reporters several hours after Thursday's attack that it was sparked by an argument in the valet area of the nearby Aria hotel-casino, and that the violence at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road did not reflect the values of Las Vegas residents or visitors.

"What happened will not be tolerated," Gillespie said. He promised the shooters would be "found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

On the Strip, which remained closed as daylight turned to darkness 12 hours later, the fiery rampage shocked tourists.

"We get stabbings, and gang violence," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife, "but this is like something out of a movie. Like 'Die Hard' or something."

Police said they were contacting authorities in three neighboring states about the Range Rover Sport with dark tinted windows and distinctive black custom rims and plates that fled the scene about 4:20 a.m. It had a car dealer's advertisement in place of a license plate.

In Southern California, the California Highway Patrol alerted officers in at least three counties to be on the lookout for the SUV.

Las Vegas police Sgt. John Sheahan said the Range Rover was last seen near the Venetian resort as it headed north from the shooting scene on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Witnesses also told police the SUV and Maserati had come from the nearby CityCenter area, the home of Aria, just south of the site of the attack.

"We have numerous witnesses to this," Sheahan said. "But what is the genesis of this? We don't know yet."

Predawn jogger Eric Lackey was on his way back to the New York-New York hotel when he snapped a cellphone photo of the blazing scene moments after the crash. Black smoke billowed from the flaming taxi, amid popping sounds from the fire.

Lackey, of Forest Hill, Md., said a security officer in a yellow shirt performed CPR on a person on the sidewalk while police officers canvassed a small crowd of perhaps 15 onlookers gathering at the scene.

"Police were asking if anyone was still in the vehicles and if they heard gunfire," Lackey told The Associated Press. "That's when I realized it wasn't just a regular accident."

Sheahan said police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and were checking hotel surveillance systems. The video will not be made public, he said.

Police did not release the names of the people who were killed, citing the ongoing investigation.

The crumpled, gray Maserati, which had no license plate, came to rest several feet away from the incinerated taxi.

"The people I feel sorry for are the people in the taxi," said Elvina Joyce, a tourist from Regina, Saskatchewan. "Seconds made all the difference in the world for them. Wrong place, wrong time."

The area near the scene has been the site of high-profile violence in the past.

Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996 about a block away under similar circumstances, as assailants opened fire on his luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road. The killing has never been solved.

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