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Suspect in Vegas Strip shooting fights extradition from California

Ammar Harris is pictured in this booking photograph taken February 28, 2013, courtesy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. REUTE
Ammar Harris is pictured in this booking photograph taken February 28, 2013, courtesy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. REUTE

By Brandon Lowrey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man accused of fatally shooting an aspiring rapper as he drove a Maserati along the Las Vegas Strip, touching off a fiery car crash that killed two other people, challenged his extradition back to Nevada from California on Monday.

The man insisted through his defense lawyer that police or other authorities from Nevada be summoned to Los Angeles to identify him in court as the fugitive they seek in the February 21 shooting, 26-year-old Ammar Harris.

Harris is accused of opening fire from a black Range Rover on the 2008 Maserati being driven by Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., 27, in an intersection at the heart of the Vegas Strip, near several casino resort hotels.

Cherry, who performed under the name "Kenny Clutch," was mortally wounded in the pre-dawn shooting, and his car veered out of control into a taxicab, which exploded in flames, killing driver Michael Bolden, 62, and his passenger Sandi Sutton-Wasmund, 48.

After an exhaustive six-day, multi-state manhunt, a man authorities identified as Harris was tracked to an apartment in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles, where he surrendered to police and FBI agents last Thursday.

Harris is charged in Clark County Justice Court with 11 felony counts, including murder, attempted murder and firearms charges.

Police say he has a long criminal history that includes arrests for robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping as well as pandering and soliciting prostitution. Police have said they believed he was involved in the sex trade.

The suspect, dressed in blue jail fatigues and standing in a glass-enclosed booth, appeared on Monday in a Los Angeles courtroom for a brief proceeding in which a judge had been expected to order him sent back to Nevada.

Instead, an identification hearing was set for March 14, and the judge ordered him to remain held without bond until then.

SHOOTING CAUGHT ON CAMERA

The circumstances behind the high-profile shooting in the desert resort city remained unclear, although police have cited a verbal altercation in the valet area of the Aria resort and Casino, a few blocks away on the Strip.

According to an arrest warrant filed by a Las Vegas police detective in the case and released by prosecutors on Monday, security cameras captured Harris briefly approaching the driver's side of Cherry's silver Maserati in the Aria's valet area just minutes before the shooting.

Surveillance cameras from several casinos showed the Range Rover following the Maserati out of the Aria and northbound on the Strip, Detective Dan Long wrote in the warrant.

The driver of a taxi driving along the Strip at the same time told police the drivers of the Range Rover and Maserati had a brief exchange at a red light, Long wrote.

Minutes later, a dashboard camera in the cab captured the Range Rover moving into the path of the Maserati, forcing it to brake, and then the sound of a gunshot, Long said in the arrest warrant. Several more gunshots were recorded on the camera before the Maserati slammed into a cab being driven by Bolden.

According to Long, Cherry suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

"Ammar Harris drove the Range Rover and shot at the occupants of the Maserati after a verbal altercation," the detective wrote.

Cherry's slaying took place less than a mile from where rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in September 1996 while riding in a BMW with Death Row Records co-founder Marion "Suge" Knight after the two men had attended a Mike Tyson boxing match.

Shakur, 25, was hit by gunfire from at least one assailant in a Cadillac while sitting in Knight's car at an intersection and died six days later. His murder remains unsolved.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Andrew Hay and Eric Walsh)

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