LAS VEGAS -- A rapper from Oakland who was killed in a shooting and fiery crash Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip glorified the gangsta lifestyle in his videos, but family and associates say 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. The shooting started a chain-reaction crash in which two others were killed and six were wounded, police said.
"Right now my heart is breaking," said Cherry's 75-year-old aunt, Pat Sims of Oakland. "This has really been a tragedy. Kenny was just a delightful kid."
Cherry had three children, said his grandfather, Eugene Morris of Oakland.
Sims said Cherry grew up in Berkeley and Oakland and attended two Catholic high schools there. He moved to Las Vegas in the last couple of years, though Sims said she didn't know her nephew was a rapper using the name Kenny Clutch.
Cherry was "a very kind soul," Sims said, and he was particularly close with Sims' 106-year-old mother.
"I haven't been able to tell her," Sims said of Cherry's death.
Cherry's parents were flying to Las Vegas to claim their son's body, Sims said Friday.
Someone in a black Range Rover shot Cherry as he drove a gray Maserati down Las Vegas Boulevard early Thursday, police said.
After he was shot, Cherry accelerated down the street and sped through a red light, striking a cab at the intersection of Flamingo Road. The cab burst into flames, killing the cabdriver and a female passenger, police said.
The Clark County Coroner's Office hasn't identified the cabdriver and the woman passenger. Family members identified the driver as Michael Boldon, 62, a Michigan native who moved to Vegas about 1¿1/2 years ago, and the passenger as Washington state resident Sandi Sutton.Three more cars and a utility truck collided at the crossroads, which is home to Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's, leaving six other people injured as the Range Rover sped off, police said.
The crumpled gray Maserati came to rest several feet away from the incinerated taxi. Cherry was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Police continue to search for the Range Rover with dark tinted windows and custom rims that set off the fiery crash. Police said a passenger in the Maserati was cooperating with the investigation.
Witnesses told police the shooting may have stemmed from a confrontation 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."
Cherry's father, Kenneth Cherry Sr. of Emeryville, said his son started a music career in Oakland and moved to Las Vegas about six years ago to write music and rap. Cherry Sr. said he didn't know how his son made money or if he had any other jobs.
"I want to make it clear that my son was no gangster or nothing like that," he said.
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. Emails to the user weren't immediately returned Friday.
"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."
Las Vegas police spokesman Jose Hernandez said police are looking at Internet comments, surveillance video, conducting interviews and considering all evidence in the high-profile case.
"Our detectives are taking everything into consideration, all of this is being considered," Hernandez said. He declined to comment on specifics, such as the comments on the YouTube videos.
The Maserati had paper car dealer sheets in place of license plates. It was not known Friday if the car belonged to Cherry, although in one rap video he says he paid $120,000 for the car. Police won't say, calling that information an integral part to the ongoing investigation.
Bay Area 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, which 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. Police said the Range Rover was last seen near the Venetian resort as it headed north from the shooting scene on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Hernandez said Friday that the Range Rover was being sought in Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. It had a car dealer's advertisement in place of a license plate.
Police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and were checking hotel surveillance systems.
Carolyn Jean Trimble, the older sister of the killed cabdriver, said Boldon was a father and grandfather who was born and raised in Michigan and had been driving taxis since he moved to Las Vegas about 1¿1/2 years ago. Boldon loved watching car races and drove a Mercedes when he wasn't in a cab.
"Everybody just loved him," Trimble said. "When that car hit that cab, Mike had to be in there talking and laughing."
Sutton worked for the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, located in a suburban area southeast of Seattle, Las Vegas television station KTNV reported.
Her family issued a brief statement requesting privacy, the station reported.
"Sandi was a loving wife, mother, daughter and sister," the statement said. "Her innocent and tragic loss will be felt by all of those who knew and loved her and by the community at large."
The area near the scene has been the site of high-profile violence in the past.
Rap legend 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.