DETROIT — A suspect in the slaying of D12 rapper Proof turned himself in Wednesday afternoon (April 12).
Mario Etheridge, a 28-year-old bouncer at the CCC Club, where the shooting occurred, is now in custody, according to the Detroit Police Department.
Authorities have not released any more details but said Tuesday that several witnesses had pointed to Etheridge and that once police started to make contact, he turned himself in. A warrant is currently being filed for his arrest.
Police said Wednesday that evidence indicates Proof shot first and then suffered a gunshot wound to the head around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday (see “Details In Proof Shooting Emerge As Police, Second Victim’s Family Speak Out” ). He was pronounced dead on arrival at St. John Holy Cross Hospital
Another victim, 35-year-old Detroit resident Keith Bender Jr., sustained a single gunshot to the head and remains in critical condition at St. John Hospital and Medical Center.
“The senseless events of Tuesday morning were extremely unfortunate and have decimated the entire family,” Bender’s family said in a statement Thursday. “Keith is a warm, caring, giving and charismatic young man. To see him in his current condition is nearly unbearable.”
|“This is a sad ending to a great career that was just getting started. He will be missed.”
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The Detroit Free Press reports that Proof was shot three times in the head and chest after pistol-whipping Bender and firing off the first round. Police believe the two men had been fighting inside the club.
Outside the precinct where Etheridge is being held, his lawyer, Randall Upshaw, said that his client “has done nothing wrong, and I’m confident the facts will come out.”
Upshaw said Etheridge is cousins with Bender, and added that the latter is on life support and has suffered brain damage. He said the focus of the investigation should be on Proof, not Etheridge.
A police spokesperson told the Free Press that if Proof was shot by someone trying to protect himself or another individual, the person who pulled that trigger may not be charged with murder. Upshaw claims Bender was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Investigators spent much of Wednesday tracking down the more than 40 people they believe could help provide information that may paint a clearer picture about what happened inside the club that sparked the shooting.
The CCC Club is located along Detroit’s East Eight Mile Road. A makeshift memorial was set up there Tuesday to pay tribute to Proof, a founding member of D12 (see “Proof: ’Eminem’s Best Friend’ And A Vital Member Of Detroit’s Hip-Hop Scene” ).
Bender’s family has asked the media for privacy. “This is an extremely difficult and sensitive time for our family in having Keith nearly taken away from us,” their statement read. “Although we thank the media for their concern, we are not up to answering questions at this time.”
[This story was originally published at 5:53 pm ET on 04.12.2006]