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The Death of Proof
Bare Witness

Tell us about that night. How did it start off?

Once we started hanging, we started hanging until the sun came up. After hours was nothing out of the norm for us, we had been doing that since ’95. It was a Monday night. I text him. He says, “I’m at the Coliseum. Me, Horny Mack and Chop.” The Coliseum is a strip tease establishment. We at the titty bar chillin’. Got the booth, drank a little, hollered at the DJ. Then we go to the Rolex, another strip tease establishment, and then we go to the CCC. I had been there numerous times before that. It was kind of a shady spot. Cats always had they pistols. We hip-hop and from Detroit, but you still got to keep strapped, because Detroit is a gangsta-ass city, and there’s a lot of cats that want to play gangsta here. Certain cats get down and the East Side has the reputation for being the grimier side of town.

What happened when you went inside Triple C?
For some reason they searched everybody, but they didn’t search me. I had my pistol on me, of course. We had some drinks, everybody buzzed up. It was a private establishment and it wasn’t really that crowded that night. The guy that I [now] know as Keith Bender was playing pool with Proof. Horny Mack [another person in Proof’s entourage] was watching the game. I was kinda pissed there wasn’t no ladies in the house. I just chilled, watched the game for a minute and went to the other side of the bar. We were getting ready to leave. We walked out the door. We saw two girls from the Rolex, one I was hollering at previously.

I go back in and I didn’t get searched again. Proof started hollering at one of the girls. I started hollering at the other girl. We kickin’ it. I’m macking, I’m doing the Mudd thing. Meanwhile, to my left I see Bender and Proof having some words. They started to get a little loud. I told old girl, “Hold on for a second. Let’s try to calm shit down.” It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for Proof to get drunk and fight. [He had] that personality, the Derrty Harry, the scrap-happy type of individual.

How was Keith Bender acting at this point?
“I don’t care who the fuck you are,” that’s what Bender was saying to Proof. Even with [Proof] being on the cover of Rolling Stone, he still would go around to different spots and show love in the city. Of course Bender knows who he is. He went to Osborn with him—on that side of town, that’s the main high school. They know each other and I’m sure they’ve had dialogue before this. Everybody knows somebody from somebody. At the time, I didn’t notice, [but] this was pretty much the Osborn crowd, just grown.

They in the argument, so we separate them. I remember my last words to Bender were “Calm down, it ain’t that serious.” He had his arms folded, leaning up against the back of the bar. Proof was talking to L.A., the owner of the club, trying to smooth the shit out. That’s when Keith Bender walked around me. Nobody’s really watching him because we thinking the shit is cool.

Bender walks around me, and walks up behind Proof and punches him in the face with his right hand. Everybody starts backing up like, “Get out the way, let them fight.” There were people up there with Bender. We were all going to fight, but this discrepancy was between these two gentlemen. All of a sudden I hear some shots coming from my right side, behind me. I look up and see it’s Mario Etheridge shooting in the air, I guess to break up the fight.

How did you react when you heard the first shots?
Reflex-wise, I put my hand on my gun. It’s already escalating and now muthafuckas shooting. I’m going for my pistol. Proof knew I had my pistol. Proof tackles me across the room onto the pool table. As he’s pushing me back. I’m looking at Etheridge. He’s shooting in the air. At the same time Proof’s pushing me. I’m telling him, “He’s shooting in the air, don’t sweat it.” He’s like, “Mudd, give me the gun.” I tell him, “He ain’t trying to kill us.” Proof slams me into the back of the pool table. I fall back, he pulls my pistol from my waistband. He walks across to where he was fighting with Bender and he shoots in the air, I guess answering the shots that Mario put in the air. And so with that, Bender attacks him. They’re struggling. I’m getting off the pool table because my back is fucking killing me, so I’m kind of slow reacting, getting over to the side of the room. Before I could get over there, Mario had came through and started shooting in the direction of Proof and his cousin, Keith Bender. I see them both drop. There’s smoke everywhere.  Mario Etheridge leaves. I’m moving people out of the way.  I see Proof lying there hit, blood everywhere. Keith Bender is lying there bleeding, blood slowly running out of his head.

What happened next?
I’m reaching for my phone. It’s in the car. Horny Mack has the keys. I’m like, “Unlock the door, let me get my phone so I can call 911.” I go get my phone, I come back in. I look and Bender’s body is gone. I’m looking around and the back door is open. I see Proof, I’m checking for the vitals. Ain’t none. There was this look in his eye, he wasn’t there anymore. I still couldn’t call 911. It was more so shock than anything. I’m normally cool under pressure-type situations, but it was one of those things. We couldn’t do nothing, say anything. Chop [the third man in Proof’s entourage] was there. He was crying. Chop’s looking at me like, Where are those keys? I’m still looking at Proof. Chop’s screaming. I’m like, “Who got the keys? Horny Mack?” And he’s like, “I don’t got the keys.” We were going to get his body out and get him to the hospital.

How were the other people in the club acting at this point?

We heard doors lock and I heard a girl’s voice say, “This what we gonna say y’all. We gonna say Proof got shot at Coney Island [an all-night diner].” Me hearing that, I’m looking at my pistol on the ground next to Proof’s left hand. I grabbed my pistol. I’m thinking, Y’all can say what you want to say. You already killed the man. But y’all gonna leave this nigga and dump him somewhere? I’m not going to live with that. I know I’m gonna live and tell the story the correct way. I leave [and] take my gun with me out the back door. I’m watching to see if anybody [is] trying to stop me. As I head up the street, Horny Mack comes walking between the side of these two houses. I’m hurt and I’m not walking too fast. I see Horny holding his hand. He said he was hit, he got shot in the hand. I’m like, “Damn, Horny, what we gonna do?” Horny bent the corner and went back around toward the club. I went straight. I knew I wasn’t going to cooperate with the story. I ain’t never been that cat. They want me to cooperate so ain’t nobody going to jail. I was like, Fuck that.

I’ve never been shocked before or terrified beyond the capacity of rational thought. I couldn’t remember where the fuck I had parked my car. I’m in a state of shock. I called my cousin who is a lawyer, told her, “This is what happened. It was my gun. Am I in any kind of trouble?” I ain’t trying to go jail. I don’t want nobody to come looking for me in retaliation. I know they trying to corroborate a story. I don’t know what to do.

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