LAS VEGAS (AP) — A self-styled pimp who flashed $100 bills at a casino valet minutes before a fatal vehicle chase was found guilty Monday of killing three people by shooting into a moving car and triggering a fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip.
Ammar Asim Faruq Harris sat still and gave no reaction as the verdicts were read Monday in Nevada state court.
Family members of the dead sobbed in the courtroom but said in the hallway they felt justice was done with the finding that Harris fatally wounded an aspiring rapper behind the wheel of a Maserati and killed a taxi driver and a tourist from Washington state who perished in a fireball chain-reaction crash.
“An eye for an eye,” said Kenneth Cherry Sr., of Oakland, California, the father of the slain Maserati driver. “I hate to see another black man go down. But I’m going to follow this thing through to the end.”
“Ecstatic,” Tehran Boldon, brother of cab driver Michael Boldon, said of the jury verdict. “They saw the same thing we all knew. Let God forgive him, I’m not.”
James Sutton, husband of taxi passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Maple Valley, Washington, indicated he was too emotional to comment.
Clark County District Court Judge Kathleen Delaney told jurors they’ll reconvene next Monday to decide if the 29-year-old Harris should be sentenced to death.
No one disputed during the weeklong trial that Harris was the shooter.
Video showed the black Range Rover he was driving jockeying for position with the Maserati in a tire-squealing chase between stoplights on neon-lit Las Vegas Boulevard.
Several angles showed apparent gunshots from the SUV before the sports car accelerated through a red light and ignited a flaming crash in front of the Caesars Palace and Flamingo resorts. Cameras caught the Range Rover speeding away in the night.
Although police found no gun in the wrecked Maserati, and no bullet holes were found in the Range Rover, Harris’ lawyers, Thomas Ericsson and Robert Langford, maintained the shooting was self-defense.
“We’ll just get ready for the next phase,” Ericsson said after the verdict.
The jury and four alternates heard a week of testimony from dozens of prosecution witnesses, but never heard from Harris himself. The judge reminded the pool of five men and 11 women they aren’t allowed to view media accounts of the case until proceedings are complete.
The panel deliberated less than 20 minutes — a stunningly rapid unanimous decision after a long afternoon of closings that had prosecutor Pamela Weckerly casting Harris as a man so ego-driven that a “sense of insult” was enough to spark a murderous rampage.
“It was not a random act. It was not an act done in self-defense,” prosecutor David Stanton said. He called shooting from one moving vehicle into another at the busiest intersection of Las Vegas an intentionally reckless and homicidal act.
Weckerly pointed to testimony that after the shooting, when it became clear that police weren’t immediately chasing him, Harris told friends he wanted to go to a strip club to see a friend who danced there.
Harris, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and lived in Miami and Atlanta, fled Las Vegas the next day. He was arrested a week later in Los Angeles.
Jurors won’t be told during the penalty phase that Harris was convicted in 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. The case is being appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The jury does know that Harris was convicted in South Carolina in 2004 of a felony weapon charge, and that he was convicted earlier this year of bribing a Nevada prison guard to smuggle cellphones, takeout chicken and vodka to him behind bars.