NEW YORK While sitting behind the wheel of Sean "Puffy" Combs' Lincoln Navigator in the early morning hours of December 27, 1999, driver Wardel Fenderson saw the rap mogul holding a black automatic gun, he testified Thursday (February 15).
"What in God's name is he doing holding a gun?" Fenderson, a 42-year-old father of three, said to himself, according to his testimony.
Fenderson testified he saw the weapon after Combs climbed into the back of the car, just before heading over to Club New York. Combs then tucked the gun into his waistband, covering it with his shirt, he said.
Later, when Combs, bodyguard Anthony "Wolf" Jones and Jennifer Lopez got in the Navigator to flee the club, just after the shootings there, Lopez described what she had seen inside, Fenderson testified.
"Shyne busted off," Lopez said, according to Fenderson, who said that she was apparently referring to the firing of a gun. "Shyne busted off in the air."
Jamal "Shyne" Barrow's lawyers, who could have objected to the introduction of Lopez' statements as hearsay, chose not to do so.
Shyne is accused of firing into a crowd, rather than into the air, allegedly injuring three people.
The scene in the Navigator just after the shooting was "like something out of a movie pure chaos, a panicked, frenzied situation," Fenderson said.
As Fenderson sped away from the club, squeezing past a police barricade, Combs and Jones repeatedly asked him if he knew how to open the secret compartment in the Navigator, Fenderson said.
"Yo, dog, do you know how to open the stash?" Combs yelled at Fenderson, according to his account.
But Fenderson didn't even know that the secret compartment existed, he said.
Last week, a police detective testified that the Navigator had a hidden trap large enough to hold two guns. But Judge Charles Solomon instructed the jury to disregard his characterization of the trap as a "gun compartment" (see "Puffy Jury Told To Ignore Testimony About Car's 'Gun Compartment' ").
Fenderson didn't directly see anyone open a window in the Navigator and throw a gun out, as has been alleged, but he did say that he saw light flood in from the rear passenger side of the vehicle, where Combs was seated.
The driver, whose testimony was interrupted by a lunch break, was expected to testify in the afternoon about an alleged attempt by Combs and Jones to bribe him to claim ownership of the gun police found in the Navigator.
He initially told police that the gun was his, but then reversed himself several hours later, according to earlier police testimony.
Lawyers for Combs and Jones are expected to suggest in cross-examination that the gun in the car did belong to Fenderson. His testimony to the contrary, they are expected to suggest, is an effort to get himself out of trouble, as well as to profit from a lawsuit he's filed in connection with the incident.