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Lawyer: Mental illness a question in Vegas bus shooting case

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Rolando Cardenas, left, arrived in court today in Las Vegas. Cardenas was with killing one passenger and wounding another on a double-decker bus last weekend on the Las Vegas Strip.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Rolando Cardenas, right, made an initial court appearance today in Las Vegas. Cardenas was charged with killing one passenger and wounding another on a double-decker bus last weekend on the Las Vegas Strip.

LAS VEGAS >> Competency could emerge as a defense for a man accused of shooting and killing one person and wounding another on a double-decker transit bus on the Las Vegas Strip, his court-appointed attorney said today.

Rolando Cardenas’ defense attorney, Will Ewing, said after a brief court appearance that mental illness is “something we’ll take a good hard look at.”

Cardenas, 55, was arrested Saturday after a mid-day standoff with SWAT officers that closed a normally bumper-to-bumper stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard at the heart of the casino district for about four hours.

Cardenas, who told investigators he is unemployed and homeless, stood shackled in court while Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Cynthia Cruz set an April 27 hearing to determine if there is evidence to hold him for trial.

He’ll remain jailed without bail.

Cardenas wasn’t immediately asked to enter a plea to murder, attempted murder, battery and firearm charges in the killing of Gary Breitling, 57, of Sidney, Montana, and the wounding of Jason Ellis, 39, of Las Vegas.

After reviewing bus security video, Las Vegas police said the shooting appeared to have been unprovoked, Cardenas acted alone, and officers thought he may have had mental issues.

Cardenas told detectives during a recorded interview that he felt threatened and fired the gun to try to scare a man who sat near him on the second level of the public bus. He said he rode the bus for about 3 miles down the Strip.

Police said Cardenas threw a SWAT robot out of the second level of the bus during the standoff, telling investigators later that he thought the device was a bomb.

He also shot twice at a camera that police affixed to a window of the bus but said he was not shooting at SWAT officers.

Cardenas finally tossed a .40-caliber handgun out a window and surrendered.

He told detectives he “felt bad about what happened,” the police report said, but “all he wanted to do was scare the large male.”

Police said Breitling was mortally wounded when Cardenas, who remained sitting, shot twice into the stairwell of the bus.

Ellis was behind Breitling on the stairs. He was hospitalized and released by Monday.

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