DETRIOT – A 28-year-old man suspected of fatally shooting the rapper Proof met with Detroit police Wednesday afternoon as authorities revealed that the musician – a close friend of Eminem – apparently shot first, critically wounding a relative of the man who shot him.
A police spokeswoman said if Proof was shot in self-defense or to protect someone else, the person who pulled the trigger may not be charged.
Wednesday’s developments came a day after hip-hop fans around the world poured out their grief at word that Proof, 32, whose real name is Deshaun Holton, was shot and killed, with many commentators characterizing him as another victim of urban violence.
Although he never reached the heights of fame scaled by Eminem, he was a worldwide ambassador for Detroit rap, a member of the group D12 and depicted in Eminem’s movie “8 Mile.”
Authorities questioned Mario Etheridge, 28, of Detroit, whose lawyer acknowledged Wednesday that Wayne County authorities were looking to charge his client in the shooting early Tuesday at the C.C.C. nightclub on 8 Mile. Police said that according to witness accounts, Etheridge is a bouncer at the club.
Etheridge is a cousin of Keith Bender Jr., 35, of Detroit, who was shot in the face in the incident. He remained in critical condition at St. John Hospital and Medical Center on Wednesday.
Etheridge’s lawyer, Randall Upshaw of Lathrup Village, wouldn’t say his client shot Proof but maintained Etheridge did nothing illegal.
“The understanding of every witness we’ve spoken to is that Proof pulled out a weapon,” Upshaw said. “It was Proof that shot the first shot. Proof shot Keith in the face. And Keith was unarmed.”
“Mario is not a criminal. How many criminals do you know who turn themselves in?” Upshaw said.
Neither Proof’s family nor Bender’s returned telephone calls for comment Wednesday.
According to police, Proof was shot and killed after he pistol-whipped and shot Bender following a fight at the club about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, more than two hours after the C.C.C. was required to close for the night.
It was not immediately known what sparked the fight or who was initially involved.
Proof was shot three times in the head and the chest, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was pronounced dead at St. John Conner Creek Village on Tuesday morning.
A manager at the C.C.C. club who was there at the time of the incident said the atmosphere was friendly before the fight.
“The incident that occurred happened rapidly and was totally unforeseen,” said Lamont Bryant, 38, who has worked at the club for two years.
But that characterization contrasted with that offered by Upshaw, who said Proof was seen fighting with several people in the club that night.
Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens said if Proof was shot by someone trying to protect himself or another, the shooter won’t be charged.
Authorities spent Wednesday trying to round up more than 40 people who they believed might have information about what happened at the club that morning.
While music insiders described Proof as warm and genuine, the rapper had a history of run-ins with police – including an arrest in 2004 for assault by Dearborn, Mich., police and a 2003 conviction of disorderly conduct. He also was acquitted in 2003 on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon in Detroit.
Funeral arrangements for the rapper were not released on Wednesday.