POSTED: 04:54 a.m. HST, Oct 21, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 03:55 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2013
LAS VEGAS >> An ex-convict with a history of alcohol-related arrests at Las Vegas Strip clubs was identified as the man who opened fire in an after-hours casino nightclub early today, wounding two employees and killing a patron who tried to stop him following a dispute about a $30 cover charge.
The suspected gunman, Benjamin Frazier, 41, was hospitalized at University Medical Center pending booking at the Clark County jail and an initial court appearance on murder and attempted murder charges, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.
Police and a family member, attorney Bob Beckett, said Frazier was being treated for serious head injuries received when he was subdued following the 5:38 a.m. shooting at Drai's After Hours at Bally's hotel-casino.
Police said Frazier acted alone.
"The person is in custody. The weapon is in custody. There are no outstanding suspects in this incident," police Sgt. John Sheahan said.
Beckett and Vicki Greco, a lawyer who represented Frazier in a recent drunk driving conviction and a 2012 misdemeanor battery conviction, said they were still gathering information about Monday's incident. Beckett, the ousted former district attorney in rural Nye County, said Frazier is his cousin and had been working at a car dealership in recent months.
Frazier was convicted in 1997 of a felony, assault with a deadly weapon, in a plea deal stemming from a June 1996 incident at a Las Vegas club. His attorneys said he completed a sentence of two years of probation, performed community service and took impulse control classes.
Witnesses told police that Frazier started shooting on Monday because he was upset he didn't get a refund of an admission charge that casino spokeswoman Celena Haas-Stacey said amounted to $30.
A club manager was wounded in the arm and a security guard was shot in the stomach before the unidentified club patron tackled Frazier as he tried to leave the club with a gun in his hand, Gillespie said. The patron was shot several times during a struggle and died.
The names of the dead clubgoer and the two employees weren't immediately made public. The sheriff called the patron a hero.
"Security professionals and a heroic patron who lost his life prevented what could have been even more death and injury," he said.
The elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department called the shooting a "random act committed by an irrational man with a violent history," and insisted the Las Vegas Strip is a safe place for workers and tourists.
"It could have happened anywhere, but it happened here," Gillespie said.
The club has a capacity of about 500 people. Sheahan and Haas-Stacey, a spokeswoman for Bally's hotel owner, Caesars Entertainment Corp., said they didn't know how many people were inside at the time.
Gillespie said the club doesn't have metal detectors at the entrance.
Sheahan said earlier reports that another guard might have been injured were incorrect.
Gambling continued in most of the casino while police investigated the shooting. Yellow crime scene tape stretched around several banks of slot machines just outside the club for several hours, before debris was removed and some sections of the carpeted floor were replaced.
The club entrance is on the casino level of Bally's near a drive-up entrance, off Flamingo Road near Las Vegas Boulevard.
The club, open Thursdays through Mondays from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m., has been an after-hours attraction at the heart of the Strip since the late 1990s. It moved earlier this year from the former Bill's Gamblin Hall, which is undergoing renovations, to Bally's across the street. Drai's is expected to move back to the renovated and renamed site next year.
Both properties are owned by Caesars Entertainment. The company issued a statement offering sympathies to victims and deferred questions to police.
The intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard was the scene of a shooting and fiery crash last February involving a self-described pimp. Authorities say he exchanged words with a man outside another Strip casino then fired shots from his Range Rover into a moving Maserati, mortally wounding the driver and triggering a crash with a taxi that left two other people dead.
A death penalty trial in that case is scheduled to begin Dec. 2, but could be delayed by a change of defense attorneys.