A 42-year-old Palo Alto man was killed in a parking lot in Las Vegas on Dec. 29, according to Las Vegas Metro police. Two people were arrested on Sunday, Jan. 3, in connection with the man's death.
Neil Brian Gandler, a Silicon Valley engineer, was identified by the Clark County Coroner's Office. Gandler was shot in the torso, according to the coroner's office, which ruled his death a homicide.
Kyle Staats, alternatively spelled Statts by police, 27, and Megan Hippie, 19, were arrested on Sunday and charged with first-degree murder, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery. Staats was also arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, according to police.
The arrests came after police received numerous tips, police said.
Video surveillance footage showed Gandler's vehicle, a Hyundai Sonata with California plates, pulling into the parking lot of a 24 Hour Fitness center located at 601 South Rainbow Blvd. at about 10 p.m. on Dec. 28. It did not appear that he ever entered the fitness center, according to police.
At about 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, another vehicle described as a two-door sedan with two occupants pulled up alongside Gandler's vehicle. Ten minutes later, Gandler's car rolled onto a parking median, and the driver's side window was shattered, police said.
Police responded to the scene after a receiving a report of a man in a vehicle who appeared to have been shot. Officers found Gandler in his car with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department is investigating the incident.
Gandler was raised in Baldwin, New York, and attended the University of Buffalo where he obtained a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science, according to his LinkedIn profile. He had a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business in business psychology.
While there, he created a new program to help late-admitted students to transition into school life, according to his LinkedIn.
Gandler had been a project manager at Hearwear Technology and previously worked at Dell, Inc. Business Group, Ford Motor Company and at Applied Signal Technology. He was the founder of Mobile Audio Innovations.
Charles Costa, a friend of Gandler's, said he often preferred to sleep in a rented car while traveling as a cost-saving measure. Choosing to sleep in a vehicle gave him more freedom to travel, which he loved to do, while still affording to live in the high-priced Bay Area, Costa said. Gandler would work from his laptop and slept in the driver's seat, he said.
Gandler usually stayed in RV parks or secure locations where surveillance cameras are present, Costa said. He had a membership to 24 Hour Fitness where he had access to a shower and often parked in those parking lots. The building had a security camera, Costa said.
Gandler was in Las Vegas for the CES tech show, a global consumer electronics trade show. He ran vegastechshows.com, a social forum for the tech show's participants. Last year the site had about 4,000 to 5,000 visitors.
"This year it was really catching on. Neil's final posts on the site were replies to members about coordinating community gatherings at the event," Costa said.
Costa recalled Gandler as a generous person.
"Neil really was a great friend and he was the one who convinced me to visit California to see what life was like out there in the tech world. He also connected me to quite a few people who became friends of mine. If it weren't for him I definitely wouldn't be having the successes I've had today," he said.
Sebastien Csapo, another friend, said that Gandler was adventurous.
"Neil had a zest for life unsurpassed by many. He was a nomad on a continuous adventure that took him from the Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest and back to New York on a regular basis," Csapo said. "I particularly enjoyed his regular photo updates as it allowed me to vicariously enjoy his travels. In particular, he sought out unique culinary establishments where he made it a point to share a picture of his next meal. He will be sorely missed."
Las Vegas Metro has released surveillance video of the suspects' car in the gym parking lot. It can be viewed here.
Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact the LVMPD Homicide Section at 702-828-3521 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 702-385-5555, on the Internet at crimestoppersofnv.com or text CRIMESNV plus tip information to 274637 (CRIMES).
People providing tips leading directly to an arrest or indictment processed through Crime Stoppers may be eligible for a cash reward, police said.