By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - The prime suspect in the slaying of an aspiring rapper who was shot and killed while driving a Maserati on the Las Vegas Strip has a long criminal history, with prior arrests on charges that include robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping, police said on Monday.
Four days after the shooting touched off a fiery pre-dawn crash at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip that also killed a taxi driver and his passenger, police said they were now seeking help from the public in finding 26-year-old Ammar Harris.
Authorities believe Harris is the man who opened fire from behind the wheel of a black Range Rover on Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., 27, early on Thursday at an intersection near several casino resort hotels.
Cherry, who performed under the name "Kenny Clutch," was mortally wounded and his sports car veered out of control, colliding with a taxicab in the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.
Killed in the cab when it exploded into flames were driver Michael Bolden, 62, and a passenger identified in local media reports as Sandi Sutton of Washington state.
At a news conference on Monday afternoon, police officials, who over the weekend identified Harris as their prime suspect, asked members of the public with knowledge of his whereabouts to come forward.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lieutenant Ray Steiber said anyone "harboring" Harris or helping him elude a multi-state manhunt could face charges as well.
"We are utilizing every available resource at our disposal to locate and take into custody Mr. Harris. He's wanted for three murders," Steiber said.
Police have said there were several men in the Range Rover at the time of the shooting, but officials declined on Monday to discuss the other occupants of the luxury vehicle.
HARRIS CALLED ONLY GUNMAN
"We are confident that Ammar Harris was and is the only shooter on that night," Steiber said. "At this point Ammar Harris is the one responsible for the shooting and the murder of three individuals."
Steiber said no weapons were found in Cherry's silver Maserati and he did not return fire on the Range Rover.
"Right now, as far as we're concerned, Mr. Cherry, he's the victim of a murder and that's what we're focused on," he said.
Police officials said Harris has a lengthy criminal record that includes arrests for weapons and pandering charges. It was not immediately clear if any had resulted in convictions.
He is described as having several distinctive tattoos, including a large black-eyed owl on his neck and small heart on his upper right cheek.
The apparently brand new Range Rover, which sported paper dealer plates, has been impounded, but police have declined to say where it was found. Steiber said no guns were found inside.
Authorities say the shooting may have stemmed from a verbal altercation in the valet area of the Aria Resort and Casino a few blocks away on the Strip.
The incident took place less than a mile from where rapper Tupac Shakur was shot in September 1996 while riding in a BMW with Death Row Records co-founder Marion "Suge" Knight after the two men had attended a Mike Tyson boxing match.
Shakur, 25, was hit by gunfire from at least one assailant in a Cadillac while sitting in Knight's car at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane and died six days later at a hospital. His murder remains unsolved.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)