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7 shot after funeral for man stabbed to death on the Strip

July, 2011

Seven people were shot Wednesday evening after the funeral of a man who was stabbed to death last month on the Las Vegas Strip. The victims were hospitalized with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening, police said. Metro Police are looking for the gunman. Officers responded just before 7 p.m. to Palm Mortuary, 1325 N. Main St., on the report of a shooting following the funeral of 21-year-old Andres Armando Elena. Elena died June 25 from a stab wound to the chest after an argument between two groups on the walkway between MGM Grand and New York-New York. Police spokesman Bill Cassell said the gunman had been mingling with mourners at the funeral and appeared to be part of the group. He then pulled out a gun and began firing into the crowd. The gunman fired multiple shots, striking seven people, including six adults and one juvenile, police said. The adults were taken to University Medical Center. The juvenile, whose age wasn’t available Wednesday night, was stabilized at North Vista Hospital, then taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. Cassell said the gunman, described only as a Hispanic man wearing a red shirt, escaped after the shooting in a vehicle similar to a 1974 Chevrolet El Camino. The vehicle was described as white, with doors that have a purple background and the number “7” in a brown, “smoky” color, police said. The car, which has chrome rims, was last seen southbound on Main Street. Police aren’t sure whether the shooting was gang-related or what ties it might have to Elena’s stabbing death on the Strip. Metro’s gang unit was investigating. Cassell said the gunman apparently acted alone in the shooting, but it wasn’t known whether a getaway driver was involved. Police were interviewing several witnesses at the scene. The June 25 stabbing on the Strip occurred during the early-morning hours and began with an offensive remark about a girl, authorities have said. The incident allegedly began when 25-year-old Victor Quijano and his friends had a run-in with another group of people at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. A man, later identified as Steven Velasquez, allegedly said something about a female in Quijano’s group, prompting a fight in the mall area, according to the arrest report. Security diffused the fight by ordering Velasquez’s group to leave. The two groups then ran into each other again on the walkway between the MGM Grand and New York-New York. That’s when a second fight broke out, resulting in the fatal stabbing of Elena. Quijano allegedly said he stabbed Velasquez in self-defense and another man who was in front of him, police noted in their report. Quijano told detectives he did not see a weapon on the second man, who police believe to be Elena. Quijano, of Las Vegas, was charged with murder with a deadly weapon, attempted murder with a deadly weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon. “Quijano said he stabbed Elena to get him back,” police wrote in an arrest report. Detectives found a black stiletto knife in the bushes near New York-New York about 20 to 30 yards from where police apprehended Quijano. He is being held in the Clark County Detention Center without bail, according to jail records.

Twilight Star Supports Local Lemonade Stand

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May, 2010

Twilight fans from all over, rushed to the Galleria mall in Henderson, early Sunday morning to wait in line to meet Peter Facinelli, the actor who plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the popular movie Twilight and who also stars as Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper in the TV series, Nurse Jackie. Facinelli spent time at the mall signing autographs, and taking pictures with fans in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Facinelli continues to support the foundation and says it is "a great way to have fun and do some good." Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was founded by a young girl named Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who was diagnosed before her first birthday, with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer. With a strong spirit the girl fought her disease and at age four begun a mission to hold lemonade stands to raise money to help find a cure for the disease. Alex hosted her first lemonade stand in her front yard and raised $2,000.00 for her cause. Alex continued for the next couple of years bravely fighting her cancer while simultaneously working to help others suffering with it as well, holding more and more lemonade stands. News of her story and her cause spread quickly and it became known worldwide and gained much support. It was becoming a huge success. At age eight, though her spirit was strong, Alex’s body was unable to fight the cancer any longer and in August 2004 she passed away, but not before she, with the help of others were able to raise over $1 million dollars to help her cause. After her death her family and friends persist to continue her legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and Facinelli along with many others continue to help fund the cause.

East Paradise

UNLV Students Protest Education Budget Cuts

February, 2010

Though many things are tolerated in Las Vegas, a proposed 22% budget cut to Nevada education is not one of them. In response to the $110 million budget cuts proposed by Governor Jim Gibbons, UNLV, Nevada State College and CSN students walked out of their classes Tuesday morning and rallied at the Pida Plaza in protest. An estimated 1,000 students and faculty gathered outside on the UNLV campus. When asked about the protest turnout, Chancellor Dan Klaich said, “I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s time to put a face on what the budget cuts mean.” After rallying for close to an hour on campus, buses shuttled students to the Grant Sawyer Building to showcase their concerns directly to legislators, who were busy inside discussing the state budget. For close to three hours, over 400 students, faculty and teacher union members huddled in the rain and raised their voices and their concerns over an intercom. “I’m an out of state student, when I came here 2 years ago each credit was $114 if these budget cuts were to go up and tuition were to hike 48%, it would be about $256.75 a credit. That is insane. A lot of students would not be able to go to school anymore,” said Jon Goldman, campus life director for UNLV CSUN student government. As their demonstration continued, legislators, who also sit on the Interim Finance Committee, began to emerge from the building to speak to the students and show that their voices were being heard. “Can there be some level of cuts? Yes. But can it be 30%? No. We won’t be able then to be poised for economic recovery. We won’t have the graduates to help the economy recover, and then we’re just having a self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to see the economy grow once again, so you have to be careful when you’re considering these budgets,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley. Though the budget cut protests efforts have been on going for the past one and a half years, they have shown previous success. In the 2009 Legislative Session, Governor Gibbons had proposed a 36% cut to education, as a result from the many efforts of students and faculty the final cut to higher education was 13%. Now with an additional 22% proposed cut to be added to the previous 13%, students continue to fight to save their state’s education system.

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Democrats Celebrate Victory for Nevada

November, 2010

In a crowded room, Democrats celebrated a victory for Nevada. As confetti filled the air, signs were waived above head and Senator Harry Reid gave a stirring acceptance speech, Tuesday night with a win of a fifth term. "Today Nevada chose hope over fear," Reid said at his election night headquarters held at the Aria Hotel. "Nevada chose to move forward, not backward. Today you made possible what many called impossible. And I’m grateful you did, not for me, but for the future we all share as Nevadans.” Supporters of all ages and races rallied together to cheer on Senator Reid’s victory and chanted words such as “Harry” and “si, se puede” (the Spanish phrase for ‘yes we can’). “This shows that together we win,” said Debra Berko, Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern Nevada central Labor Council. Throughout the night prior to the final results being revealed, amidst a room of more than 2,000 people, momentary cheering would pierce through the crowd as updated poll results made their way on to the large screens placed around the room. Following the brief cheers of anticipation for current leads in the race, the crowd was given a confirmed victory to celebrate. Despite pre-election polls, which showed Republican candidate Sharron Angle ahead with votes, after a close race, election results revealed a 50 percent triumph for Reid over Angle’s 45 percent. “We’re elated! This just goes to show you that the polls are not always correct,” said Las Vegas Democrat, Donna Palladino, 52. “This means we have the most powerful Senator in the country who is going to work to create more jobs and who also has a great partnership with Obama.” In other state elections, despite the Democrats loss of majority of the Congress, re-elected Congresswoman Shelley Berkley expressed that it would not affect her job. "I've served under Democratic presidents and under Republican presidents. I've served in the majority and in the minority," Berkley said. "My job stays the same. I serve the people of Nevada." In the beginning of the evening, Berkley, who stormed past her opponent, Kenneth Wagner, with an overwhelming 62 percent of votes to his 35 percent, gave her opinion for the remaining elections of the night. “I am very optimistic for Reid, the projections are ahead. I am a bit more cautious about Titus, it is more close. She and I are good friends and she ran a great race and hopefully it will pay off, if not I’ll still will work with congress to achieve what needs to be done,” said Berkley. “For the last 12 years I come home every weekend. I see this as a job with a very long commute, but my constituents appreciate it. All the personal touch pays off and this election shows it. We care about the people we represent, that’s what we do.” As in all elections there are some victories and some losses. Republican candidate Brian Sandoval defeated Democrat Rory Reid in the Governor’s race 54 percent to 41 percent, becoming Nevada's first Hispanic governor. “I feel I would have preferred Reid to win, but Sandoval is a competent, honorable person so we’ll see what he does. I would like to finally see what his plan is,” said third generation Nevadan, Natalie Peterson, 31. “I really hope we have officials that put education as a priority. Better education will lead to a more diversified economy.” The losses to the Democratic Party seemed disappointing, but Democrats remained hopeful and optimistic with the overall results of the evening. “We lost the Governor’s race, but I’m positive because we still have control in the Senate and the Assembly,” said elected Senator for District 10, Ruben Kihuen. “I feel great about tonight. Reid’s re-election is more important tonight. His win is a win for the whole state.”

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Memorial Day ceremony draws hundreds to veterans cemetery

May, 2011

Thousands of American flags covered the lawn Monday as hundreds of people gathered at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City to honor past and present members of the military. Hosted by the Catholic War Veterans, Post 1947 and Auxiliary, the ceremony was a poignant remembrance and recognition of those who sacrificed their lives. “This is a day that we pay tribute to our fellow citizens that made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us can be here today,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley. “This is the day that we also speak and thank and pray for their family members and loved ones for having made that sacrifice, along with their serviceman or woman, and have a hole in their heart for the rest of their lives for their loss for our nation.” Chairs filled the chapel at the cemetery and overflowed to both sides of the patio. People stood outside the doors and lined against the walls as speakers shared words of remembrance and gratitude. Among the speakers were Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller, Rep. Joe Heck and Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler. “The graves around us, at Arlington and at cemeteries around the world serve to remind us that freedom isn’t free, it has a cost, and I can’t talk about that cost without also asking you to remember our gold star families who stood strong through adversity … We will never truly know the depths of their pain but we should all share in their grief,” Heck said. During the ceremony, speakers stood to share personal stories of friends and family members. With each new speech, more tears came to the eyes of veterans and loved ones in attendance. Las Vegas resident Tiffany Ferguson, who has family in the military, said one of the most touching sights of the ceremony was seeing the age range of those paying their respects. “It’s not just the older generations that still come out, it’s a lot of younger generations out supporting,” she said. Farideh Ghane lost her son, Alexander, at age 19 during a training practice in 2008. Alexander was a graduate of Sierra Vista High School and a Navy Seal. “Physically, I am very broken, but mentally I am so proud,” Ghane said. As the ceremony ended, the crowd went outside to watch the Joint Firing Honor Guard in a 21-gun salute. The rifle salute was followed by Buglers Across America playing Echo Taps and the Boulder City Veterans’ Pilot Group performing a missing man formation flyover. “I appreciated this so much. What happened here today, it was one family and one unity and I wish that everybody lived like that every day,” said Henderson resident Peter Crooymans, who served in the military in Holland and was taken prisoner in Germany for a year. “I’m very happy that I was here today,” he said. “I saw one big family.”

East Paradise

From Memorial Park to Patio

May, 2010

One year ago grave headlines filled the media in Southern Nevada, which led to administrative leaves and a forced retirement. Boulder City residents Tami and Kevin Jenicke, who are both state employees, were featured in news stories last April after they removed 77 headstones from the Boulder City Veterans Cemetery and used them as a patio in their backyard. When the spouse of a veteran passes away that person can be buried with the veteran in the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery that is operated by the state. The cost of headstones are covered by the federal government. The headstones that were removed by the Jenickes were stones that contained errors or were being replaced by joint spouse headstones. By regulation, any headstone that is not in use must be crushed and destroyed before leaving the cemetery grounds. Rather than being properly disposed of when replaced for corrections, 77 granite headstones were merely set-aside, completely intact on the cemetery grounds. In previous interviews, Tami Jenicke claimed she thought they did nothing wrong by removing and using the headstones. What was left out of most of the previous news stories was the involvement of Cemetery Superintendent Jack Porrino. According to an inside source, the Cemetery’s superintendent at the time, Porrino, granted permission to the Jenickes to use the headstones as they wished, under the condition that the names on the headstones were not to be seen. After receiving permission to use the headstones, the Jenickes removed the 77 headstones to build a granite patio at their home. The controversy in this action was that, not only were they Veteran headstones being used for a patio, but that the granite headstones were paid for by the Federal Government with tax payer money. Current Veterans Cemetery Superintendent Chris Naylor refused to comment on last year’s incident, but said that inside measures were taken in correcting the situation. Tami Jenicke works in the public relations department as an administrative assistant for the Veterans Home. Her husband Kevin Jenicke, works at the Veterans Cemetery as a grounds equipment operator. After taking the headstones from the cemetery, the Jenickes were allotted time to return all 77 headstones. Aside from returning the headstones, the Jenickes were placed on a 4-6 day administrative leave from work and both returned to their jobs with no write-ups or demotions. Calls made to Kevin Jenicke were not returned. Tami Jenicke, who refused to comment on the incident, continues working at the Veterans Home today, and her husband Kevin continues to work at the Veterans Cemetery. The Cemetery superintendent, Porrino, who granted permission to use the headstones for personal use, was forced to retire from his position at the Cemetery. In May 2009, Porrino retired as cemetery superintendent with no digression on his record. E-mails and messages to Porrino requesting his comments were not answered. Deputy Director of the Nevada Office of Veterans ServicesCarole Turner refused to comment on the involvement of Porrino in this incident, but said that after that incident all employees were instructed to dispose of all unused headstones so they are unrecognizable. Although Porrino was forced to retire due to his involvement, some believe it was inappropriate to allow the Jenickes to return to work given their involvement in removing the headstones and turning them into a patio. Several veterans interviewed regarding this incident were reluctant to speak on the record for fear of the Veteran's Administration officials interfering with their individual benefits. Privately, they shared that they were “offended that the Veterans Cemetery and state employees seemed to have no moral problems in taking and using these headstones in the first place.” One veteran commented that despite the fact these headstones were no longer in use, “it alarms me that the people that took the headstones, and those which authorized it didn't have the morals to see the disrespect towards veterans caused by using these for their frickin BBQ patio at home. The hard part is once the supervisor gave them permission, no matter how dumb they might be, all responsibility is removed from them.” “I don’t understand why the headstones were approved to be taken home if disposal policies are in place. My concern is primarily with the senior administrator who approved such actions. Clear regulations and policies are not subject to interpretation. They must be adhered to,” said former president of the UNLV Student Veterans Organization, Michael Dakduk, 24, US Marine Corps. “It's troubling to hear that veterans' headstones were used for home improvement.”

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Memorial Attracts the Law From Across Nevada

May, 2011

Sounds of bagpipes played in the distance as friends, family and fellow members of Law Enforcement slowly gathered on the lawn. Candles bordered a long black tablecloth draped table where 28 photos rested. It was a night of respect, a night of honor and mainly a night of remembrance. The annual Southern Nevada Law Enforcement Memorial was held at Police Memorial Park and over two hundred attendees gathered to pay their respects to the 28 pictured officers and their families and friends. Each year law enforcement officers from across Nevada gather at the memorial during this time of year to honor fellow officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial is held each calendar week of each year during which May 15 occurs marking the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day. “This is the Southern Nevada Law Memorial. Out of respect, law enforcement agencies from across the state come and visit the memorial with us in the ceremony. Even though we are southern and northern, we are one large law enforcement community,” said Captain Kirk Primas, who has been on the Metro Police force for almost 27 years. Attendees were welcomed to the ceremony and the memorial began as a march of honor took place, led by a multi-agency Honor Guard and the families of the fallen officers. “I get asked on a regular basis why we do this. I think people think we do this for us for the police officers but we do this for the families that’s why we do this for the families,” said Captain Kirk Primas, who has been on the Metro Police force for almost 27 years. For the next few minutes, the crowd was silent, as the Honor Guard presented the colors of each branch of law enforcement, a memorial wreath was set and the Rev. Doctor Vincent ONeill gave a solemn invocation. “It’s a constant reminder what these officers gave to the community, the ultimate sacrifice, they lost their lives and their families have suffered just a great of a loss. It’s a motivator actually for all of us that work today, that there are people that sacrificed for everybody in this community through good and bad times,” said Primas. As a melancholy silence grew over the atmosphere, Palo Verde High School’s Vocal Infinity Choir quietly sang America the Beautiful and the names and agency of the fallen officers was read aloud. As each officer’s name was announced, family took the moment to present a white rose in the memorial bouquet that sat at the front of the crowd. “This is a time for me to show my respect for the fallen officers, for my friends that are on the force, just a small time of respect,” said attendee Greg Pushard, 48. While no law enforcement members have been added to the memorial wall this year, the memorial serves as a remembrance to those who have given their lives in the line of duty, years prior. From the first memorial honoree, Officer Ernest James May in 1933 to the most recent, Officer Daniel J. Leach in late 2009, 28 officers were honored Thursday evening at the memorial. “I didn’t know any of them named, but you don’t have to. You just have to come here and honor them and honor the alive ones,” said Pushard. The memorial concluded with a 21-gun salute, a three plane fly-by overhead and a final song of Hold Me Rock Me. As the Vocal Infinity sang their last tribute song for the occasion, hugs were shared between loved ones in the crowd and tears began to fall. “I thought it was as moving and as appropriate a memorial service as I have ever attended. It was moving, the speeches were lovely it gave us an opportunity to pay tribute not only to the fallen law enforcement officers but to their families, and to thank them for their tremendous sacrifice and to thank those that are currently serving in law enforcement for the sacrifices they make for the rest of us putting themselves in harms way every day,” said Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who was in attendance for the entire memorial service. As the crowd prepared to depart, Metro Police Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn closed the memorial with one final thought before thanking the crowd for attending; “as you drive home tonight, remember it’s not how they died that we remember them, it’s how they lived their lives.”

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Fireworks blamed in blaze at North Las Vegas home

July, 2011

Improper disposal of fireworks caused $125,000 in damage to a North Las Vegas home on Sunday evening. According to the North Las Vegas Fire Department, a garage fire was reported at 10:49 p.m. Sunday at 5724 Awakening St., near Pecos Road and Tropical Parkway. Firefighters found heavy smoke and flames coming from the garage of the house. No one was home and firefighters forced entry through the front door of the house. Officials said the owner of the home reported fireworks debris had been placed in a plastic bag in the garage to cool. Investigators confirmed the fire was caused by the fireworks debris. The fire caused significant damage to vehicles in the garage, other contents of the garage and two bedrooms inside the home. This is the third fireworks-related blaze in the city.

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San Gennaro Feast Attracts the Crowds

May, 2011

Once the aromas of fresh pizzas, kabobs and Italian sausage fill the air, heat is no longer an issue. Over the course of five days, hundreds of locals and tourists pack into the parking lot, which hosts the annual San Gennaro Feast. “We are here every year. The best part about this event is all the different people it brings out,” said Patricia Kennedy, NY. San Gennaro never made headlines during his lifetime, but now, this name of the once bishop of Benevento, Italy and Patron Saint of Naples, is known around the world in the annual tradition of feast and entertainment. This religious holiday – turned- anticipated food festival kicked off at the Silverton Casino and Lodge on Wednesday and will continue to bring out the crowds for food and fun through Sunday. “This is our first year here, and so far it’s pretty cool, I like it. The sausage and marinara, it was really good,” said Troy Gravatt, 19. Food isn’t the only appealing attraction at the feast, in addition to the spotlight stealing homemade foods that are served up each day, other attractions include, an over the top, full-size carnival with rides and games, dozens of retail vendors and a kids petting zoo. “There’s so much here to do, it’s really nice,” said vendor owner Scott Zhang, Sacramento, CA. “We come here every year and set up, we like it a lot. Weekends are really busy, which is nice. Every year my wife and I come to Vegas and it’s nice we can do a week of the fair here and then we can stay a little longer and vacation. It’s very nice, we really enjoy it. Our favorite part of the festival is the location, we love the casino it is here at.” For locals, Bryan Dillehay, his wife Ashley and his daughter Eden, this year marks the start of new event to look forward to each year. “This is our first year coming to this because of our work schedules, but we’ve definitely been pigging out on all the food,” said Ashley Dillehay, Las Vegas. “Even if it’s only for a couple hours, we will definitely be back next year. I know we’ll be craving this food again by this time next year.” Tickets to the event are $9 for adults and $8 for seniors at the gate. Children shorter than 54 inches tall are admitted free. Event specials include free carnival rides for mothers on Saturday and free carnival rides for fathers on Sunday. Gates open at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends. For more information, visit www.sangennarofeast.com.

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Police identify 16-year-old stabbing victim

July, 2011

The young man killed after an altercation Tuesday night on Boulder Highway has been identified by Metro Police as 16-year-old Trevion Alexander. He died after being stabbed during a fight, police said. Charles Bernard Smith, 19, was booked into the Clark County Detention Center without bail on counts of murder with a deadly weapon and probation violation, police said. Smith has a court hearing scheduled for later this week. According to Metro Police, the fight took place on the 5500 block of Boulder Highway about 10:15 p.m. Upon arriving on scene, police found Alexander suffering from a stab wound. He was taken to Sunrise Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Police said the stabbing took place after an altercation between two groups of people became physical.