Wed, Feb 21, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Violence, shootings mar NBA All-Star Game celebrations

AFP , LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Violence marred post-NBA All-Star Game partying on Monday as shootings left three people in critical condition and stamped an ugly footnote on what should have been a time of celebration.

Police arrested 362 people during the All-Star Game weekend as scattered fights broke out along the main casino strip early on Monday even though police had braced themselves for the post-celebratory mayhem.

"These people have been here since [last] Wednesday so they have been here for several days and were getting very little sleep," police spokesman Jose Montoya said. "This was their last night in Vegas and we figured if something was going to happen it would be near the end of the events."

Police also employed extra officers to control rowdy crowds at the Las Vegas airport where thousands of weary NBA fans missed their flights on Monday.

Four shot

Montoya said four people were shot in two separate shootings and a manhunt was on for one of the gunmen who shot three people outside the Minxx nightclub.

A manager, security guard and female customer were all in critical condition on Monday, he said.

Another man was shot in the hip at 4am in the front entrance of the luxury MGM Grand Hotel and Casino early on Monday. It was followed by a brawl less than half an hour later in a club at the Wynn hotel.

Montoya said even though the Minxx victims were shot outside in the parking lot, police believe the shooter had the gun inside the club earlier in the evening.

"There are criminal elements that try to take advantage of big crowds and they have targets," Montoya said.

Montoya said even with Vegas' reputation for partying and hosting big shows, this is the first time the desert city has hosted an event on this scale.

Las Vegas is the first non-NBA city to be awarded the All-Star Game and is actively trying to pursue obtaining an NBA team.

"We can't even compare this to New Year's Eve," said Montoya, adding 56 percent of those arrested were from out of town.

`Very different'

"New Year's Eve is a 14-hour event but this [All-Star Game festivities] went on for five days all over the valley and included after-game events and private parties so it is very different," he said.

The Las Vegas airport was also a scene of chaos on Monday as thousands of weary travelers missed flights in one of the busiest days ever.

"We have officers at the airport and they have handled several small fights," Montoya said.

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