Saturday, June 25, 2011 | 6:29 p.m.
It all began when a guy described as an overzealous fan led an unauthorized tour of the Las Vegas home once rented by Michael Jackson.
Soon there was a call to Metro. The guy leading the tour turned out to have a warrant out for his arrest and shouldn’t have been on the property at all. Metro officers combed the neighborhood trying to locate and apprehend the volunteer tour guide, and within minutes, a pit bull was shot in at least one and maybe two paws.
Just another day in the old Jackson neighborhood.
All of this drama, much of it farcical, unfolded on what was intended to be a dignified means to mark the second anniversary of The King of Pop’s death at age 50.
The estate Jackson leased at 2710 Palomino Lane from 2006 to 2008 was opened to the public for four hours this afternoon so fans could enjoy a glimpse of his Vegas living quarters. The tour was to start about noon. But the event was delayed for a couple of hours because of an incident that was bizarre even by the uniquely lofty standards set during Jackson’s life, and even after.
Fans began lining up early in the morning at the property, some as early as 9 a.m. By 11:30, some 30 had assembled in the rising heat, confused because no start time for the tours had been formally announced. TMZ broke the story that there would be tours of the estate lasting four hours, leading fans to descend on the budding Las Vegas landmark dubbed Palomino Hacienda.
At 11:30, a guy arrived who said he was friendly with the estate’s owner, real estate mogul and philanthropist Aner Iglesias. Iglesias owns hundreds of properties in Las Vegas and donated the building that bears his name to the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
The would-be tour guide told the group he was familiar with the house and, heck, he was sad to see everyone suffering in the heat. So he switched out of his attire, changing from a T-shirt to a collared shirt, and led the group through the estate -- including off-limit areas not permitted to be viewed by those taking the tour.
Soon, Metro was called by Iglesias’ associate on property and the woman whose idea it was to organize the public tour, Didi Lima. The man -- whose identity has yet not been released by Metro officials -- made his way out of the estate and toward Shetland Road, which runs perpendicular to Palomino Lane and is just around the corner from Palomino Hacienda.
"They aren't letting me on the property," he said as he walked off. This, according to one of those on the tour, Yvette Stokes of Las Vegas. She got to tour the estate twice, once on the unauthorized visit and later on the official walk-through.
"There were about 30 of us, and he gave us water. He was really nice," Stokes said. "He sure knew a lot about the house, but then two Metro officers showed up, and we knew something was wrong.
Several more Metro officers arrived and quickly combed the neighborhood. Two arrived at 721 Shetland Road, and one walked onto the property to ask if anyone had seen this mysterious individual. By then, Metro had run the man’s name and learned that he had a warrant posted for his arrest. But as one of the officers made his way toward the front door of the house at 721 Shetland, a pit bull growled, barked and burst through a 6-foot-high chain-link kennel, lumbering toward the officer. The officer fired twice, hitting the canine in one paw, at least, as Metro Capt. Larry Burns (who was on the scene after the shooting) said he understood the dog was hit in a front and back paw.
Either way, the pit bull in question was rendered disabled and soon wrapped in a blanket and taken to a nearby veterinary clinic for treatment. The identity of the officer who fired the shots is being withheld for now. As Burns said, when an officer fires on a human, the department waits 48 hours before releasing his or her identity. But Burns did note that he was not certain what the department policy would be for an officer shooting an animal.
He said, “There will be a complete and thorough investigation.”
As for the history of this dog, when that home’s next-door neighbors learned the gunshots they heard was the dog being shot, one said, “Good.” When told it survived the incident, it was, “Too bad.” The dog, they say, is a menace that is a threat to all forms of life, especially children. Oh, and Metro officers.
All of this had largely played out by the time the first tour was led through the house. Much of the 12,138-square-foot home and 1.7-acre expanse was off-limits to visitors, making it somewhat of a tepid experience unless you were an avid Jackson fan. And plenty of them showed up, if only to satisfy not-so-idle curiosity of Jackson’s onetime living situation.
The highlight, as it were, was a shrine to The King of Pop erected in the estate’s wedding chapel. Across the way, videos of the late icon’s career played on a big-screen TV. In the background, such classic songs as “Blame It on the Boogie,” “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Off the Wall” played on a ceaseless loop.
The house is currently on the market, in case you’re interested in owning a piece of pop culture history, listed for $12 million. That’s why a group of investors from China were among those to arrive on the day of the tour. The home is simply loaded, featuring 12 bedrooms, recording studio facilities, a guest house, elevators leading to the master bedroom, tunnels dug beneath so a superstar can move about unnoticed, the chapel, three kitchens, a cobblestone esplanade and vast outdoor barbecue areas and garden features. A fountain and sculpture of a crescent moon being hugged (rather creepily, actually) by a pair of nude cherubs stand in the estate’s center courtyard.
Out front, in what looks to be a bell tower absent a bell, four musical notes are placed around the high-rising structure.
“When Michael saw those, he knew he had to live here,” Lima said. “It was destiny.”
The day’s odd tour guide/pit bull shooting incident notwithstanding, Lima beamed as fans filed through the estate. She might dial up another similar tour on the anniversary of Jackson’s birthday, Aug. 29, and said Iglesias is serious about selling this house, but only to a serious buyer.
“We will ask the bank to verify anyone’s financial records, and the information needs to show a lot of zeros,” she said. “We have a lot of people who want to look at the home just because Michael Jackson once lived here.”
They’ll probably get that $12 million, provided there are no more ruckuses in the neighborhood.