Sheriff: Crowds, alcohol, drugs fueling Vegas Strip violence

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities are investigating the latest shooting outside a Las Vegas Strip resort amid a spike in violent crime around the city’s marquee tourist area that police said Wednesday has led to at least 1,100 arrests since Aug. 1 and the seizure of more than 60 weapons.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo blamed a surge of recent violence on out-of-town visitors who come to Las Vegas but are unable to visit nightclubs and entertainment venues that remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s just a lot of people in a small condensed area and you infuse their desire to have a great time and infuse things like alcohol and drugs and it’s a bad combination,” the elected head of the Las Vegas police department said in an interview on KLAS-TV’s Good Day Las Vegas.

Lombardo’s TV appearance came hours after police said a woman was treated at a hospital for a minor leg wound after a shooting among a group of more than 80 people who gathered in the valet area of the Aria hotel and casino while rap music figure Moneybagg Yo celebrated his birthday.

Social media posts by the rapper, whose name is Demario DeWayne White Jr., said he was not the target of gunfire.

White was at the event when a fight broke out and more than one shot was fired, said police Capt. Dori Koren, commander of the area covering the Strip. No immediate arrests were made.

Koren said the department has assigned more patrols and specialized units including officers with drug- and gun- sniffing dogs to the Strip to quell what he called an unprecedented problem in an area crucial to the economic livelihood of Las Vegas and the state.

Sixty-three illegal guns were seized in the area during a 30-day period that ended last week, Koren said.

Officer Aden Ocampo-Gomez said the department did not immediately have comparable statistics for arrests and gun seizures for previous years.

The continued closure of arena shows and clubs and a change in customers from air travelers to drivers from nearby states left the region’s nearly 124,000 hotel rooms just 42.5% full in July, according to the regional tourism agency. Overall visitor volume was down 61%.

“Our challenge is in aggravated assaults — fights, stabbings, shootings. They are up,” the police captain told The Associated Press. He said reports of sexual assaults and robberies are down in recent months.

“Sometimes viral videos and social media coverage can make it seem like more than it really is,” he said. “But one incident, one viral video, one shooting, one stabbing is one too many.”

Koren also noted that security cameras cover nearly every inch of the Strip, a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) corridor including more than 20 resorts between the Sahara Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay. More than 400 of the 1,100-plus arrests during the last seven weeks have been on felony charges, he said.

“We’re making sure that every person that commits these crimes is caught and held accountable,” Koren said, adding that arrestees have been from California, Florida and other states.

Early Tuesday, officers chased and apprehended a man with a gun after a person reported being beaten near Harrah’s Las Vegas, police said.

Early Saturday, three men ranging in age from 19 to 24 were arrested after one person was shot several times and two others were injured in a sidewalk fracas outside the Paris Las Vegas resort. Koren said one of the arrestees was identified as the shooter.

Not every case has led to immediate arrests. The Wynn Las Vegas took the unusual step of filing a civil lawsuit this month in Nevada state court seeking financial damages from 20 as-yet-unidentified people involved in a 12:30 a.m. Sept. 6 brawl that broke out after a man threw cash in the air in the Encore hotel lobby — an act termed “making it rain.”