Busta Rhymes has finally made a statement about the deadly shooting on the set of his video last Sunday that claimed the life of his 29-year-old bodyguard, Israel Ramirez. But despite pleas from the police to talk, Rhymes' comment was about his friendship with Ramirez, not a statement to authorities.
"I have sent my condolences to the Ramirez family during this time," Rhymes said in a statement issued by attorney Robert Kalina. Ramirez who was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest on the set of the video for Rhymes' remix of his song "Touch It."
Rhymes praised Ramirez in the statement, saying he was "one of the rare friends that you come across that you can trust with your life. ... The conversations I have had with Izzy's wife have all been focused on comforting her and helping her get through this. To that end, I've assured her that I will be taking responsibility in making sure that my friend, a devoted husband and a loving father, is laid to rest in a proper fashion."
After a family wake was held on Wednesday, Rhymes was one of the guests at a second wake for Ramirez on Thursday in New York. "He put out his condolences, and that's it," said Alex Echavarria, 34, a friend of Ramirez's, according to The Associated Press. Ramirez's funeral was scheduled for Friday (February 10). Also in attendance at the wake were other artists who were on the set of the video the night the bodyguard was shot, including Missy Elliot and G-Unit's Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks.
Police have said that they believe the violence was sparked by an argument between Yayo and a rival producer that spilled out onto the street outside the studio. Though Rhymes initially said he was inside the studio at the time of the shooting, police believe he was outside, near the murder scene. Yayo's lawyer told MTV News that his client has not, and will not, speak to police about the incident (see "Tony Yayo Won't Speak To Police About Shooting On Busta Video Set, Lawyer Says").
Citing the ongoing investigation, a New York Police Department spokesperson would not confirm who has spoken to investigators. While Missy Elliott has reportedly given a statement to police, Kalina would not comment on whether Rhymes has been contacted by or interviewed by authorities (see "Police Want To Question Busta Rhymes About Fatal Shooting At Video Set").
Earlier this week, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that Rhymes had not made an effort to help identify the killer. "Let's put it this way: They're not knocking on our door to talk to us," Kelly said of potential witnesses, according to the AP. Police are still seeking to speak to a second bodyguard who may have been involved in the alleged scuffle between Yayo and the producer.
The police spokesperson confirmed that authorities are looking over videotape shot on the night of the murder for clues to help identify witnesses or the shooter. If none come forward, Kelly said some of the witnesses may be forced into court to testify.
"They'll either cooperate or perhaps a grand jury might be necessary," Kelly said.
After initially eliciting the anger of the family by not attending Wednesday's wake, Rhymes explained in his statement that he stayed away at first to protect the family's privacy.
"Out of respect for the family's desire for, and right to, privacy during this mourning period I made the decision to attend Izzy's wake on the second day rather than the first, knowing that my presence [on Wednesday] would have brought unnecessary media attention to a personal and private time of grieving," Rhymes said
Ramirez, who was on hand to guard Rhymes' jewelry during the shoot, was killed in a hail of gunfire that erupted outside the Brooklyn warehouse where the video was being filmed. Ramirez's sister said Rhymes kindly remembered her brother.
"He was very sincere. He talked about what my brother was like," said Rosie Rodriguez, according to the AP. "He said all the beautiful things that we already knew, but he said it in more detail." Ramirez's sister-in-law said the rapper told the family he would make sure the bodyguard's three children were taken care of.