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Vegas bus shooting suspect says he feared larger passenger

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Las Vegas SWAT officers surrounded a bus along Las Vegas Boulevard, Saturday, in Las Vegas.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Rolando Cardenas. A man visiting from Montana was shot on a Las Vegas bus on Saturday before the suspect barricaded himself in the vehicle and shut down the Strip for hours, authorities said Sunday.

LAS VEGAS >> A man charged with killing one man and wounding another on a double-decker Las Vegas Strip transit bus told police he fired a gun because he felt threatened by a large male passenger who sat near him and was trying to scare him with gunfire, according to a police report obtained today.

Rolando Cardenas, 55, also told detectives in a recorded interview following a standoff and his surrender Saturday afternoon that he was unemployed and recently became homeless. He said he thought he heard the large man, who was with two women, say he would attack him before he pulled a gun and fired twice.

Cardenas remained jailed without bail at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas on murder, attempted murder, battery and firearm charges ahead of a court appearance Wednesday at which a judge is expected to appoint a lawyer to represent him. Attempts to reach relatives have been unsuccessful.

Security video of the upper level of the enclosed bus showed Cardenas seated near the rear and passengers beginning down a stairwell at a stop near the Cosmopolitan hotel-casino when “suddenly and without provocation” Cardenas fired two shots, according to the police report.

Police and prosecutors have said the video won’t be made public until it is presented in court proceedings.

Gary Brietling, 57, of Sidney, Montana, was behind his wife in the stairwell when he was mortally wounded in the chest, the arrest report said. He was pronounced dead 40 minutes later at a Las Vegas hospital.

Jason Ellis, 39, of Las Vegas, was behind Brietling. He was wounded in the torso. Ellis was treated for his wound and released, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday.

Neither the large man who Cardenas described nor the women were injured. They weren’t named in the police report, and it wasn’t clear if they were questioned as witnesses. Police had asked for people who fled the bus and sidewalk during the shooting to contact authorities.

Messages left for Brietling family members and at a telephone number believed to be linked with Ellis were not immediately returned.

Cardenas, who told authorities he is 5 feet 7 inches tall and 155 pounds, told detectives he “felt bad about what happened,” but he said again that “all he wanted to do was scare the large male,” the police report said.

The Las Vegas Strip was closed during the four-hour standoff, during which police said Cardenas threw a SWAT robot out of the second level of the bus. He later told police he thought the device was a bomb.

Police said he also shot twice at a SWAT camera before tossing a .40-caliber handgun out a window and surrendering.

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