LAS VEGAS (AP) — A jury watched intently Thursday as a prosecutor showed video from multiple angles of perhaps the most stunning scenes of carnage ever on the Las Vegas Strip: A vehicle-to-vehicle shooting, a high-speed crash that sent cars spinning, and a fireball that left three people dead — including two who burned to death in a taxi in front of glittery casino marquees.
“They’re shooting each other right there, see?” said a driver in a taxi recording dashboard video of a black Range Rover SUV with a blinking right turn signal edging close to a silver Maserati at a traffic signal. The vehicles accelerate, and more shots are heard.
“Oh!” said a passenger as a fireball erupts. He and another passenger pull out cellphone cameras. One says it looks like a Hollywood movie.
“No way! Right in front of Caesars Palace!” one exclaims.
Prosecutor David Stanton pointed across the courtroom at defendant Ammar Asim Faruq Harris, and he called him the person responsible for the “premediated intentional and deliberate murder” of three people.
Harris’ defense attorney, Thomas Ericsson, told the jury there was more to the story than what the video showed.
Someone waved a gun in a crowd at a casino valet stand, Ericsson said. Harris had been shot two months earlier in a confrontation in Miami. And Harris’ mindset wasn’t to kill anyone, Ericsson said.
The pre-dawn crashes, fire and deaths at Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road on Feb. 21, 2013, were tragic, Ericsson said, but they weren’t murder.
Harris was defending himself and three women in a black Range Rover SUV seen speeding away from the scene of the fireball, Ericsson said. “It appears he was trying to get out of there,” the defense attorney said.
The 29-year-old Harris, a self-described pimp who was arrested a week later in Los Angeles, could face the death penalty if he’s convicted. He faces three murder charges, one attempted murder charge and seven counts of use of a firearm.
Stanton revealed Thursday that all three women in the Range Rover with Harris at the wheel told Harris the man driving the Maserati wasn’t the person Harris had argued with at the Aria casino valet following a hip-hop nightclub event.
Harris fired six shots into the Maserati anyway, Stanton said.
The Maserati driver, Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., 27, was mortally wounded by a shot that angled down from his left shoulder through vital abdominal organs. Maserati passenger, Freddie Walters, now 29, was wounded in the arm. The sports car accelerated to almost 90 mph through a red light before slamming into a taxi at a crossroads that Stanton called one of the busiest in the U.S.
The taxi burst into flames. Driver Michael Boldon, 62, and passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Washington, perished.
“Just senseless,” Gigi Boldon, the taxi driver’s sister, said after she watched Stanton outline the prosecution’s case. Boldon’s brother, Tehran Boldon, and Sutton-Wasmund’s husband, James Sutton, were among other family members who watched.
It took three days to seat a jury of 12 and four alternates for the trial, which is expected to take several weeks in Clark County District Court.
Harris has said he wants to testify.
The trial is his second before Judge Kathleen Delaney in a little more than two years.
He was convicted in September 2013 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for raping and robbing an 18-year-old woman at a Las Vegas condominium in June 2010. He is appealing the conviction.
Harris drew another two-to-five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty this year to bribing a Nevada prison guard to smuggle cellphones, takeout chicken, vodka and a phone charger into a prison outside Las Vegas.
In the months before the shooting, Harris posted videos of himself waving a handful of $100 bills, boasting about luxury cars and bragging about living in a house full of women who paid him. Records showed he lived in Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas.