LAS VEGAS -- A rapper with Oakland ties who was killed in a shooting and fiery crash Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip may have glorified the gangsta style in his videos, but family and associates said Ken Cherry was nothing like the image he portrayed.

Cherry, 27, who rapped under the name Kenny Clutch, died after someone in a black Range Rover shot at him about 4:20 a.m. Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip, police said.

"I can tell you this ... the world has lost a good man," said Cherry's 75-year-old aunt, Pat Sims of Oakland. "I'm not saying he didn't have his faults, but he was very kind, especially to older people.

Whatever happened in Vegas, I don't know about, but he was a very kind soul."

Cherry's gray Maserati rapidly accelerated down Las Vegas Boulevard and through a red light after he was shot and struck a cab at the intersection of Flamingo Road. The cab burst into flames, killing the cabdriver and a passenger, police said. They have not been identified.

The crumpled gray Maserati, which had no license plates, came to rest several feet away from the incinerated taxi. Cherry was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Police said bullets came from the black Range Rover as it raced with the Maserati toward a red light on the Vegas Strip.

Three more cars and a utility truck collided at the crossroads, which is home to Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's, leaving people injured as the Range Rover sped off, police said.


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Witnesses told police the shooting may have stemmed from a confrontation that Cherry had with an unknown number of men in the valet area of the Aria Resort and Casino, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.

Such a violent ending was in stark contrast to Cherry's personality, his attorney said.

"In my interaction with him, I can tell you that by the way he looked and what he put out there on his videos, he fit a certain stereotype," attorney Vicki Greco said. "But I also can tell you that away from that, he was anything but that kind of stereotype. He was honest. He was loyal. He was very dependable. Sometimes, he'd drop by my office just to say hello. He was a nice, nice kid."

Greco said she'd known Cherry for eight years and that "she considered him more of a friend than a client." She said she represented him in a civil case and two other cases "involving minor traffic tickets."

Two rap videos shot by Cherry and posted on YouTube each received a threatening comment from a user named 745Dolla but it was unclear how the user may have been tied to Cherry.

"He was into gangsta rap, but that's not who he was," Greco said. "He was doing it to make a living. He was a kid who was just trying to hustle and make it."

Law enforcement sources said Cherry had prior arrests in Oakland and Berkeley. He was convicted on a gun charge in 2007 stemming from an arrest in Berkeley, sources said, although details on that conviction weren't immediately available.

Several members of the Oakland rapping community have traveled to Las Vegas recently, sources said, for the filming of a rap video by another local rapper.

The dramatic predawn scene in Vegas that more than one tourist compared to something out of a violent action movie set off a frantic search for the occupants of the Range Rover. Sheahan said the Range Rover was last seen near the Venetian resort as it headed north from the shooting scene on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Sheahan said police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and were checking hotel surveillance systems. The video will not be made public, he said.

"What happened will not be tolerated," Gillespie said.

Witnesses also told police the SUV and Maserati had come from the nearby CityCenter area, the home of Aria, just south of the site of the attack.

On the Strip, the fiery rampage shocked tourists.

"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like 'Die Hard' or something."

Authorities in three neighboring states are on the lookout for the Range Rover Sport with dark tinted windows, black custom rims and paper car dealer ads in place of license plates.

In Southern California, the California Highway Patrol alerted officers in at least three counties to be on the lookout for the vehicle.

Vegas jogger Eric Lackey was on his way back to his hotel when he snapped a cellphone photo of the blazing scene moments after the crash. Black smoke billowed from the flaming taxi amid popping sounds from the fire.

The area near the scene has been the site of high-profile violence in the past.

Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by in 1996 about a block away under similar circumstances, as assailants opened fire on his luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road. The killing has never been solved.

Staff writers Katie Nelson and Associated Press writers Ken Ritter, Michelle Rindels and Hannah Dreier contributed to this report.