The Death of Proof
How did you carry on after that?
The next day I didn’t go to work. My cousin called in. She basically gave me the best legal advice: “There’s two things you do. You can either go in and tell a story, or you can say nothing at all. Homicide detectives are going to come looking for you.” I waited it out for a day. My phone is blowing up. 6 o’clock in the morning. It’s the first thing on the news, “Rapper Proof was killed along with another man and police are looking for Bizarre.” I don’t know how they got Bizarre’s name. Maybe the name Mudd sounded bizarre. Bizarre was in Atlanta. [He] ain’t even hangin’ in spots like that. That was kind of a signal, somebody’s talking to police and to media. I’m like, Damn, it’s [only] a matter of time.
I just chilled out with my cousin for a minute and I didn’t go home the first night. The second night I did come home, but I didn’t know if anybody was looking for me, so I parked around the corner and walked to my place and went in through the back door. I went to work the next day. I was just kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen.
I got a phone call from Salaam Wreck. I met Salaam through Proof, but I don’t know him like that. I know he’s the DJ for D12. He’s like, “I heard you was there.” I kind of blew him off. Then Swift calls me like, “Mudd, what happened? We talked to Horny Mack and we heard you was there. Come talk to us. We all at the studio. Em’s here and we want to talk.” After 11, I called back to the studio. I think Swift was there and Salaam Wreck. Swift’s been my man since back in the day and he’s always been a standup guy. I end up telling the story all over again.
So how did the detectives actually get in touch with you?
That next morning Proof’s cousin, Dwayne, called me and he told me about this lawyer, David Gorash, and [said] if I’m in any kind of trouble, they had my back. All of a sudden [there’s] a wrongful death suit, and muthafuckas talking about suing. I went down to the studio to talk to some of the artists from D12 and David Gorash. The rumor was Proof shot Bender in the face and Mario came over and shot and killed Proof. That ain’t the fuck what happened, but that’s what everybody’s saying. I even heard Horny Mack tell that story, from another party. And I’m like, “He was standing right there. He saw what I saw.” Everyone was asking me, “What happened to Proof’s jewelry?” He always had his jewelry when we were hanging out. His Rolex, P-chain and pinky ring. We talking a lot of jewelry that’s worth a lot of money. I was like, “I don’t know. Whoever stayed, you might want to ask them.”
Word is out, Mudd was there. People would see us together like all the time. It’s out in the street now. It wasn’t out in the news or papers yet. David Gorash asked me to talk to someone in homicide. At the time, we didn’t know ballistic-wise who shot who. We still don’t know to this day.
I went down to 1300 Beaubien [Detroit Police headquarters]. I made a statement. The detectives said they would keep it under wraps and I didn’t have to worry about my statement getting involved in the media. At the same time, they’re cops. I don’t trust them. I feel fucked up for going to cops in the first place. But here it is, I’m in a catch-22 situation. I’m worrying about people seeing me and knowing me from that spot, because the East Side of Detroit is a very small place. I am already thinking of what the consequences may be, because I’m the only one telling my story. Later, I heard there’s another person telling the story exactly how I did. They still didn’t tell me who it was. I don’t even think I met this person. I’m feeling out here by myself. I know Chop knows them and Chop ain’t going to say nothing. I heard at the time Horny Mack’s story changed so many different times so he wasn’t credible. Regardless, I was going to tell the truth. I go down there to talk to homicide and they said they wasn’t going to say shit. I go to work and people [are] still calling me. I’m blowing off cats left and right. I asked the guys from D12 and the lawyer had suggested that none of them repeat what I told them.
Tell me about the funeral.
Time goes by, the wake comes up, funeral comes up. Thyme and I spoke at the funeral. Even in the obituary it mentions us. Mama, Proof’s mother, included us in there. You don’t think about that type of shit everyday—it was an honor. The funeral was touching. I hadn’t cried like that since I was a kid. It was more so mental with me, because I was there. Horny Mack was at the funeral and we were the only people who witnessed it. It was one of those things that was just tragic and fucked up all because of nothing.
Backing up for a minute, you said you recognized Mario Etheridge from high school?
I didn’t know that I knew Mario. You know, you see people later in life and they’re grown up and they gain weight? I remember him young. I look different from high school too. I had a nose ring, dreadlocks, big hoop earrings, baggy pants. I looked in the yearbook, and low and behold, there he was. I remember him from high school. He was chubby then.
Then I found out that Proof and Keith Bender were at Osborn together. Everybody in the place knows each other from somewhere or are familiar with each other. It almost seemed like this was some high school grudge shit, as petty as it is. You start investigating more and it’s like, Damn, this shit should have never happened. Detroit’s [the] hater capitol of the world and muthafuckas wanna take shit to the next level. It escalated for nothing.
Why did you decide to tell part of the story anonymously to XXL several months ago?
I decided to do it once everything started going wrong. There’s two men tragically lost, and Bender’s family is thinking about how much money he’s going to get. Bender started the whole thing. And then Bender’s cousin started shooting. And here it is, we outnumbered. I know these muthafuckas are going to say whatever they can to keep Mario from going to jail.
Sooner or later, it was going to come out that I was there, so I might as well for Proof’s sake, for his family’s sake and for his kids’ sake. He’s got five kids. You want to take money from his children? You want to take money from his loved ones, from his mother? That’s fucked up. I felt obligated, morally. [For] someone I’ve known that long and saw him killed, I got to say something.
As far as testifying, when did they contact you?
I didn’t hear about the case until the day they subpoenaed me. Three homicide detectives came up to my job on Monday (September 18). One detective, Charles Zwicker, I recognized from the first time. He wrote the statement down. I’m calm now that I see a familiar face. He’s like, “You’re being subpoenaed. You got to appear in court tomorrow morning at 8:45.” They’re like, “You’re the last witness.”
I really couldn’t sleep that night. I got down there and walked in and the detective who subpoenaed me told me to step outside. “Look over your statement, and make sure you don’t talk to nobody.”
I step up to the stand. The prosecutor examined me and his defense cross-examined me. After I gave the testimony, Proof’s mother came in on the second half. They brought the gun out and asked me if I recognized the pistol. I knew everything about my gun, even my serial number. I told them, “Glock 32, semi-automatic, mid-size .357 caliber.”
A guy came up to me who was on the stand when I first walked in. I knew he looked familiar. He introduced himself as L.A. “I’m the club owner,” he [said]. “Ain’t no love lost, you did the right thing.” The defense had asked me, Did I know how Proof had got to the hospital? Turns out L.A. took him to the hospital, at least that’s what he told me. He told me ain’t no love lost. He loved Proof, that was his boy and he still has the chess set Proof gave him. Proof lost a game of chess, and he had to buy him a crystal chess set. He’s like, I still got the blood-stained shirt with his blood all over it. That was my man, I loved him. You ain’t got to worry.