Tourist killed, security guard wounded in Harrah's shooting

LAS VEGAS - A Hawaiian tourist was killed Friday by a stray bullet in a busy Las Vegas Strip casino as security officers struggled with a robbery suspect who opened fire.

Heather M. Vitarelli, 29, of Maui was killed instantly while standing near the main casino cage at Harrah's about 1:30 a.m.

Vitarelli was struck once in the back after a man who was struggling with security officers shot one of the guards in the stomach, Metro Police homicide Lt. Wayne Petersen said. Vitarelli had been standing about 35 feet from the struggle when she was hit by a second shot.

The 43-year-old security officer is in stable condition at University Medical Center.

Police arrested Stephen Mullen, 32, and Michael Frimmel, 31. They are being held at the Clark County Detention Center on murder charges.

Harrah's security officers stopped the two men near the main casino cage because they matched the description of men who had stolen a customer's purse about 6 p.m., Petersen said.

''When they went to place the handcuffs on the suspect, he began to run and security officers tackled him,'' Petersen said of Mullen.

As the security officers struggled to get Mullen's hands behind his back to handcuff him, Mullen allegedly pulled out a semiautomatic pistol from his pants and fired two shots.

''The security officer was hit first in the stomach and the other bullet went through a pant leg of the security supervisor,'' Petersen said. ''That's the shot that struck her.''

Vitarelli, who was a guest at Harrah's, had been staying with relatives in Napa, Calif., Petersen said.

Tom Jenkin, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Las Vegas hotel-casino, said ''we are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy.''

The gun was stolen in Virginia and both men have prior arrest records in other states involving thefts and drugs, Petersen said. Both men have been staying in a small Strip hotel north of the Stratosphere for about a month, though police aren't sure of their hometowns.

It was the second fatal shooting in a Las Vegas Strip casino this year. In February, shocked gamblers fell to the floor when three shots were fired in the Stardust hotel-casino's sports book. Philip M. Greenspan, 56, was shot in the chest allegedly by an acquaintance. Greenspan later died at the hospital.

Out of the 34 million tourists who came to Las Vegas last year, two were killed, Petersen said.

''You stand a better chance of winning the California lottery as you do being a homicide victim in Las Vegas,'' he said. ''Las Vegas is an incredibly safe tourist destination.''


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