- Bellagio’s poker-room cashier’s cage targeted by an armed robber for second time in 16 months
- Robber flees scene through nearby north valet entrance, then tries to carjack an escape vehicle
- Robber challenged by Las Vegas metro police already on scene, shooting ensues, robber is critically wounded and later dies
- Poker players tweet about incident while poker room is placed on lockdown
- Bellagio casino, famed as venue in fictional “Ocean’s Eleven” film, has been target of several violent robberies in recent years
An as-yet-unidentified armed robber has died hours after exchanging gunfire with a Las Vegas Metro Police Department officer. The robber was attempting to flee the vicinity of the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas with $35,000 stolen from the cashier’s cage in the popular poker room on Friday night, March 15.
Bellagio robber turned violent
The incident was the second armed robbery of the Bellagio poker room in the past 16 months. It adds to an oddly lengthy list of criminal incidents at the famed casino near the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. According to an initial statement by the LVMPD, the robber approached the poker room’s cashier’s cage, demanded and received money, and calmly exited the room within moments.
While the cashier’s cage staff followed training and calmly gave the robber the $35,000, the situation quickly turned violent. He tried to escape via the north valet entrance, which is only a few dozen yards from the popular cash-game room. It opens in the direction of Flamingo Blvd., across from Caesars Palace.
Once into the parking area, the robber tried to carjack an approaching vehicle, then fired upon LVMPD officers. The police officers were already present at the casino while responding to a report of a lost child, and they reacted quickly to the report of the robbery in progress.
The robber’s shot hit an LVMPD officer in the chest, although he was wearing a protective vest and avoided serious injury. That officer was later identified as Joaquin Escobar, A second LVMPD officer, who also has yet to be identified, then returned fire and hit the robber in the chest, critically wounding him. The robber died several hours later at a Las Vegas hospital.
Poker pros reported robbery on Twitter
As is typical for a Friday night, the Bellagio’s 40-table room was busy, with several well-known pros participating in cash-game action. While few of the players were instantly aware of the robbery in progress, other officers quickly locked down the entire room as an active crime scene.
Prior WSOP bracelet winner Randy Ohel was one of the first players to post news of the robbery on Twitter, as did multiple bracelet winner Eli Elezra. Both these players and others posted photos of LVMPD officers securing the scene.
Meanwhile, poker legend Doyle Brunson added his own touch of irony to the expanding story. Brunson and others were playing their regular “Big Game” in the famed Bobby’s Room, one of two semi-private parlors within the larger 40-table room.
Brunson tweeted: “The guy that robbed the cashier cage at the Bellagio should have walked south 10 yards and took our money in Bobby’s Room. He got 35k and we had about 200k in cash waiting to put it on deposit. Waitress said she could have hit the guy as he slowly left.”
Latest of several violent robberies at the “O”
For reasons unknown, the Bellagio has suffered more than its expected share of robberies. Perhaps the most famous of these occurred in 2010, when a man grabbed a large quantity of high-denomination chips from a high-stakes table-games area, fled to an exit, hopped on a waiting motorcycle and escaped.
The so-called “Biker Bandit” didn’t stay free for long, however. Since the chips he stole could only be cashed out at the Bellagio, he had to return there and tried to launder them through play at the tables. The Bellagio was watching for such activity, and soon the “Biker Bandit”, also known as Tony Carleo, was behind bars.
Carleo turned out to be the son of a prominent Las Vegas circuit judge, although that didn’t save him from receiving a nine-year prison sentence.
Two more violent robberies occurred more recently, both in 2017. In March of that year, three robbers wielding sledgehammers made a “smash and grab” attack on one of the Bellagio’s jewelry outlets, although at least one of the robbers was later apprehended.
And in November of 2017, the same Bellagio poker-room cage robbed on Friday was targeted by a different armed robber. That disguised robber eluded casino security and successfully fled the scene.
To date, no arrests have been made in connection with that robbery, nor is it known if there are any connections to the latest violent incident.