Feb 22, 2013 / 9:08 pm
Kenny Cherry was an aspiring rapper who moved from the Bay Area to Las Vegas to pursue his career. His music videos online show him cruising through the city in his Maserati.
Michael Boldon was a family man and taxi driver who hailed from Michigan and loved fast cars.
The two men's lives, along with that of an unidentified passenger in Boldon's cab, ended in violence normally seen only in movies: gunfire, a fiery crash and an explosion before dawn Thursday on the neon-lit Las Vegas Strip.
As investigators Friday tried to find the gunman in a black Range Rover SUV who triggered the shocking chain of events, families and friends tried to grasp the blink-of-an-eye finality of it all.
"Right now my heart is breaking," said Cherry's great aunt, Patricia Sims. "This has really been a tragedy. Kenny was just a delightful kid."
Sims, 75, said Cherry moved to Las Vegas from Northern California, though she didn't know her nephew was a rapper using the name Kenny Clutch.
Cherry's parents were travelling to Las Vegas on Friday to claim his body. The 27-year-old, whose full name is Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., was driving a Maserati that was peppered by gunfire before it sped through a red light and smashed into Boldon's taxi.
The taxi exploded into flames, killing Boldon and female passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, as four other vehicles crashed like pinballs at an intersection overlooked by some of Las Vegas' most famous hotel-casinos: Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Bally's and the Flamingo.
Police think an argument at the valet area of the upscale Aria resort-casino led to the shooting, but they haven't shared details. The shooting happened the same night that Morocco-born rapper French Montana was playing at Aria's signature nightclub, Haze.
"What the original disagreement was is crucial to the ongoing investigation and the identification of the suspects," said Las Vegas police officer Bill Cassell.
He said investigators were examining surveillance video and enlisting help from federal authorities and agencies in neighbouring states to look for the distinctive Range Rover. It had blackout windows and custom black rims and was last seen speeding away from the fiery scene around 4:30 a.m. Thursday.
Police said a passenger in the Maserati was wounded in the arm but was treated at a hospital and released. He was reported to be co-operating with investigators, and his name wasn't made public.
Cherry's father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., said he was struggling to handle his grief.
"I want to make it clear that my son was no gangster or nothing like that," he told The Associated Press. "He moved to Vegas about six year ago and he was writing music and rap."
Court records show Cherry had no criminal cases or convictions in Las Vegas, and Cassell said there was no record of arrests.
The police spokesman wouldn't say whether investigators determined if Cherry owned, rented or borrowed the Maserati. Cassell called that information "integral to the investigation."
Meanwhile, Boldon's family struggled to cope with his death.
"It's very devastating for us, for my family," said Tehran Boldon, 50, younger brother of the 62-year-old taxi driver. "Our family has no history of violence or gang membership that would predict losing a family member to such an event."
Boldon's sister, Carolyn Jean Trimble, said Boldon was a father, a grandfather and a car enthusiast. He was one of five children born and raised in Michigan, where he took care of his ailing father, who fought cancer, before moving to Las Vegas to be with his 93-year-old mother.
Bolden had owned a clothing store in Detroit and worked at a car dealership, his sister said. He began driving taxis after moving to Las Vegas about 1 1/2 years ago.
"Everybody just loved him," the older sister said. "When that car hit that cab, Mike had to be in there talking and laughing."
The irony that a man with a taste for beautiful cars was killed by a sports car wasn't lost on Trimble.
"He would be tickled to death: 'Damn, of all things, a Maserati hit me, took me out like that,'" she said. "I'm happy he didn't suffer."
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