Relatives say altercation led to exchange of gunfire
Police confirm Army vet was shot first by rapper, who was then slain in bar on Eight Mile in Detroit.
Ronald J. Hansen, Eric Lacy and Norman Sinclair / The Detroit News
April 12, 2006
DETROIT -- Proof, the rapper often credited with first giving Eminem serious consideration as an artist, was shot to death early Monday morning, apparently after shooting an Army veteran at a troublesome east side nightclub, police said.
Ironically, the shooting happened along Eight Mile, the cultural dividing line Eminem made famous in a 2002 movie that featured characters loosely based on the hardscrabble rappers' climb from obscurity.
Details of the shooting at the CCC club remained unclear late Tuesday.
Lamont Bryant, who calls himself the club's administrator, declined to discuss details of the shooting but said Proof was a regular at the club who didn't believe in hiring bodyguards. "This incident was extremely out of the ordinary," Bryant said. "He was at the club and seemed comfortable; nobody thought there would be a problem."
Relatives of Detroit resident Keith Bender, who was critically wounded in the shooting, claimed Proof shot Bender and then was shot by someone else. Detroit police confirmed their account.
"Some words were exchanged. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Angel Bender, Keith Bender's sister-in-law. "We're still putting the pieces together."
The shooting was the second in Detroit in the past four months for members of Eminem's rap group, D12, and it stunned the city's music community.
"I really hope (Proof) will be remembered in the hip-hop community as a pillar," said MC Serch, former morning show host at WJLB-FM (97.9).
"Several artists would not have a career at all had it not been for Proof, and to think he would be remembered any other way would be sad."
Proof was shot in the head. Bender, 35, was also shot in the head. Police had no suspects Tuesday night.
The club was closed Tuesday night as police worked inside seeking evidence. At the bottom of the club's sign someone scrawled in red ink: RIP Proof.
On New Year's Eve, rapper Obie Trice, also a member of D12, was shot in the head driving on the Lodge. Trice was not seriously injured.
Proof said recently there was more than bad luck involved in cases like that. "I think it's a Detroit thing, honestly," he said in a soon-to-be published interview with Detroit Rock City magazine.
"It was a good thing the bullet didn't really penetrate."
Proof remained close friends with Eminem, serving as best man at the rapper's second wedding to Kim Mathers in January. Eminem could not be reached for comment.
Angel Bender said her brother-in-law retired as a staff sergeant from the Army because of heart troubles. He is a Detroit native and 1990 graduate of Osborn High School. He was a medic and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, she said.
He went out Monday to celebrate word that he would no longer need a defibrillator for a heart condition after two years, she said.
Both men were at the CCC club with friends, police said. It appears an altercation between the groups sparked the shooting.
By early Tuesday night fans gathered near the club at Eight Mile and Brock, where a makeshift memorial was set up.
The fans placed stuffed animals and posted notes on and around a utility pole as motorists passed by honking horns and yelling cheers of "Big Proof!"
Luida Kuzel, 20, of Detroit, couldn't make sense of Proof's slaying and believes retaliation from Proof's friends is inevitable. "It's not right, but that's what happens," she said.
The shooting happened inside the CCC, a private club with a troubled recent history.
In December, police cited the club's management for underage drinking and after-hours operations there.
Authorities have made 18 other visits to the club in the past decade, police said.
In recent weeks, a bouncer was shot and wounded there, said James Tate, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department.
Detroit News Staff Writer Adam Graham contributed to this report. You can reach Ronald J. Hansen at (313) 222-2019 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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