The Death of Proof
Mudd, whose government name is Reginald Moorer, was one of three people that accompanied Deshaun “Proof” Holton to the CCC the night of his death. On the condition of anonymity, Mudd spoke to XXL in the July 2006 issue about what happened that tragic night at the CCC club. The investigation is still ongoing. After several months, Mudd has decided to come forward to tell the entire story about the night that went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of two men, his gun, and the testimony he gave in court this week.
Mudd’s friendship with Proof dates back 15 years to an Osborn High School lunch table. He was a freshman at Osborn when he met Proof, who was a senior at the time. A few years later, Mudd joined a group with Proof and another rapper, Thyme, called 5-Elementz (5ElA). The group gained notoriety around Detroit in the mid ’90s. They all worked at Maurice Malone’s Hip Hop Shop and— with the support of Malone—moved to New York in search of a record deal. Proof ultimately left the group to join Eminem on the road. After a falling out, Proof and Mudd smoothed out their differences in 2004, and the two frequently hung out when Proof was in Detroit. Mudd raps on Proof’s Searching for Jerry Garcia. Here is his story.
What was your relationship with Proof like most recently?
It was like five years of catching up on all the experiences he had been through. It was still the big brother/little brother type relationship. We had a routine: Wild Woody’s on Wednesday, Tuesday was Northern Lites, Mondays we would hang at a titty bar call Jon-Jon's, Saturday was the State Theater. If I wanted to see him or find him, I knew where to go. We would play pool at Bookies.
In the last few months before his death, was there anything different about Proof?
It was different. He was starting to get more focused. He had stopped all the pills and weed smoking. Before, we were deep into metaphysics. Anything that he was doing, he was fully aware of the concepts. Proof [was] not only a very intelligent person, he was very spiritual as well.
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.
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.