The Las Vegas Strip’s lucrative nightclub scene returned to the headlines Monday, when reports of a deadly incident again interrupted the usual news flow of celebrity sightings and casino profits.
What began as an argument over a $30 cover charge to Drai’s nightclub inside Bally’s hotel and casino ended with one patron shot to death and two unarmed security guards wounded. It was the second deadly incident linked to a Strip nightclub this year.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie declined to call it a trend. Instead, he praised the patron whose actions in attempting to subdue murder shooting suspect Benjamin Frazier likely prevented others from being killed or injured, calling him a “good samaritan.” The name of the patron has not yet been released. In a press conference on Monday afternoon, the sheriff recounted the facts as he understood them, adding that the tourist destination remains safe and secure.
Frazier approached the entry of Drai’s and asked the door security guard if he could go in and look around before paying the cover charge, Gillespie said. The doorman agreed and Frazier entered the club, returning a short time later. He agreed to pay the charge, then began arguing with the doorman. It was 5:38 a.m.
“The argument escalated and Frazier pulled out a handgun and shot the host in the arm,” Gillespie said.
As Frazier attempted to leave the building, a second security officer tried to stop him and was shot in the stomach.
Then a club patron moved in, jumped Frazier and wrestled him to the ground. Breaking free, Frazier then shot the customer to death just a few feet from a bank of slot machines.
By that time, more security arrived and subdued Frazier, who was arrested and hospitalized. The wounded security guards are expected to recover.
Frazier, 41, has a history of violence that includes a 1996 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in a case involving an incident at a local nightclub. Last year, he was arrested for beating a Strip casino bartender. Frazier pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of battery in November 2012, according to court records. He agreed to stay out of trouble for six months and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
This year’s earlier incident in a Vegas club occurred in February, when an argument between two men at the Haze nightclub inside the Aria hotel and casino ended with three deaths. Self-described pimp Ammar Harris is accused of fatally shooting rapper Kenneth “Kenny Clutch” Cherry, causing him to crash his Maserati into a taxi and setting off an explosion that killed the cabdriver and his passenger. Harris pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in May.
Violent crime on the strip fell 13 percent in 2012, but a few high-profile events in the last year have worried tourism officials that Sin City may attract a reputation for violence. Last December, a man shot and killed his ex-wife in the lobby of the Excalibur and a woman attacked a blackjack dealer with a razor blade at the Bellagio. In February, a man was shot in the parking garage of the United Artists Theatre and a man was brutally stabbed in an elevator within the Hotel at Mandalay Bay.
Although Gillespie admitted in an interview earlier this year that his department has received mixed cooperation from casino nightclub operators, on Monday he softened that stance. The county’s top law enforcement officer went out of his way to focus on reassuring Las Vegas visitors the Strip was a secure place to party.
“It’s an ongoing process with regards to the security in and around hotel properties and nightclubs,” Gillespie said. “This is an event that, I’m sure, will help continue dialog in regards to keeping Las Vegas a very safe tourist destination.”
He added, “I want to underscore this incident today was a random act committed by an irrational man with a violent history It could have happened anywhere, but it happened here.”
A few hours after the deadly exchange, the blood was cleaned up and the slots closest to the nightclub were again occupied with customers.