Deadly Las Vegas city hall jail annex standoff began 42 years ago

True Crime

MYSTERY WIRE — It was 42 years ago today, August 25, 1979, that a standoff in Las Vegas was taking place at the jail annex at city hall. The mastermind behind it was Patrick McKenna, who would become known as Nevada’s most dangerous man and the ‘Emperor of Death Row’.

The standoff between inmates and police became the long and intense siege that ended in gunfire and bloodshed.

McKenna’s criminal history is long. Over more than 30 years, judges and jurors had convicted him of rapes, assaults, and murder among other crimes. When the 1979 standoff began, McKenna was at the jail annex waiting to be transferred back to prison after being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to three consecutive life terms plus 75 years in prison for sexually assaulting two women in Las Vegas.

Beginning on the morning of August 25th, 1979, two inmates inside the city hall jail annex overpowered an officer, stole his keys, and got an accomplice to help them steal weapons from the gun locker.

The trio tried to escape wearing guard uniforms, but detectives stopped them beginning the standoff.

An army of police surrounded the jail where inmates tried to negotiate a deal using a KLAS-TV newsman as the middleman.

The old Las Vegas City Hall and jail annex in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. City Hall has since moved and this building is now headquarters. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

But then around midnight, the three ringleaders turned on each other and started shooting. Out of the three men, two were killed, leaving only Patrick McKenna alive.

McKenna then held police at bay for another two days before finally surrendering.

Las Vegas Police arrest Patrick McKenna after a long and deadly standoff.

George Knapp and his colleagues at KLAS-TV in Las Vegas produced a documentary on McKenna and his crimes. It was called “Emperor of Death Row” and aired on April 28, 2003.

Mystery Wire’s George Knapp sat down with McKenna on death row for an interview. Knapp produced three stories about his interview that originally aired in May 2002 on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, NV.

McKenna died in late April of this year from heart and liver diseases. According to the Clark County coroner’s office, McKenna’s cause of death was postoperative paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Other conditions were a form of liver disease, hepatitis C, and hypertension.

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