LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man accused of killing one person and badly wounding another in random stabbings in Las Vegas wielded a large survival-style knife and made comments suggesting he was suffering a mental episode, including asking one victim about drugs and cartels, police said.
Richi Briones was arrested Wednesday evening at a bus stop after apparently abandoning a dented tan Toyota minivan police sought during a nine-hour search for an attacker who wielded what Lt. Dan McGrath described as a “Rambo-type” knife while chasing another man east of downtown.
That man escaped unharmed, but Briones is accused of stabbing and critically wounding another man in an alley behind a sushi restaurant, and killing a man who police say was attacked from behind while standing at a convenience store counter.
The 52-year-old Las Vegas man injured in that attack remained in critical condition Thursday at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Officer Michael Rodriguez said.
Police haven’t described a motive for the attacks, but McGrath told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the first victim heard Briones make what McGrath termed “mental illness-type statements,” including something about a cartel and drugs.
“He was kind of delusional,” McGrath said of the suspect.
Tina Briones, who was identified as Briones’ mother, said her 32-year-old son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in recent years, and she believed his mental disorder spurred him to become “a different person.”
“He doesn’t have his medication, he’s mentally ill,” she said.
McGrath didn’t immediately respond Friday to messages from The Associated Press, and telephone calls to numbers associated with Tina Briones went unanswered.
Rodriguez said that after the first incident, Briones tried without success to buy a shotgun at a nearby sporting goods store, but left after filling out paperwork with his name on it.
Minutes later, a man was found stabbed and critically wounded in an alley behind a sushi restaurant where a witness provided investigators with a description of the assailant and a vehicle — a dented tan Toyota minivan that police said Briones was driving.
The fatal attack came when Briones parked the van, grabbed a gas station convenience store customer from behind, reached around to his front and stabbed him several times, McGrath told reporters. The customer was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
The Clark County coroner didn’t immediately make the man’s name public, pending notification of his family.
Police said none of the victims knew each other or Briones.
“It was very random,” McGrath said.
At least one store clerk and several other customers were in the convenience store at the time of the fatal attack, Rodriguez said, and detectives recovered security camera footage. Rodriguez said the video would not be made public until a court decides whether it should be released.
According to court records, Briones underwent a mental evaluation before a Nevada state court judge ruled in January that he was competent to face a felony auto theft charge.
The case was dismissed in February by a judge after a preliminary hearing of evidence, records show.
Briones was being held in a mental health unit at the Clark County jail pending an initial court appearance at which he is expected to have a lawyer appointed to his case.