After two days of private mourning, Eminem broke his public silence late Thursday on the death of his best friend Proof, as the slain rapper's lawyer refuted police reports that he shot first in Tuesday morning's incident at Detroit's CCC Club.
"You don't know where to begin when you lose somebody who's been such a big part of your life for so long. Proof and I were brothers," Eminem said in a statement regarding the death of his D12 partner, longtime onstage hype man and closest friend (see "D12's Proof Shot And Killed At Detroit Club"). "He pushed me to become who I am. Without Proof's guidance and encouragement there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady. Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop."
Though the focus since Tuesday's incident has been on reports from police that it was 32-year-old Proof (born DeShaun Holton) who fired first, shooting Keith Bender Jr. in the face before he was fatally shot by another man (see "Suspect In Proof Slaying Turns Himself In"), Eminem encouraged fans to remember the life of Proof, not his death.
"Right now, there's a lot of people focusing on the way he died," Eminem said."I want to remember the way he lived. Proof was funny, he was smart, he was charming. He inspired everyone around him. He can never, ever be replaced. He was, and always will be, my best friend" (see "Proof: 'Eminem's Best Friend' And A Vital Member Of Detroit's Hip-Hop Scene").
On Thursday, Proof's lawyer, David Gorosh, strongly questioned police claims that his client fired first (see "Details In Proof Shooting Emerge As Police, Second Victim's Family Speak Out"). "To indicate that Proof pulled the trigger first is reckless and quite frankly it will be proved to be untrue," Gorosh said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
|"This is a sad ending to a great career that was just getting started. He will be missed."
How have you been affected by Proof's life and death? You Tell Us.
|DeShaun 'Proof' Holton (1973-2006): A Look Back
Bender remained in critical condition at St. John Hospital at press time and his family released a statement Thursday decrying the violence that led to his shooting. "The senseless events of Tuesday morning were extremely unfortunate, and have decimated the entire family," the statement read. "Keith is a warm, caring, giving and charismatic young man. To see him in his current condition is nearly unbearable. Please keep Keith and our family in your prayers as we work through this tragedy. This is an extremely difficult and sensitive time for our family in having Keith nearly taken away from us."
Police and prosecutors continued interviewing the man suspected of shooting Proof, 28-year-old Mario Etheridge, who turned himself in Wednesday. Authorities have said that it's possible Etheridge, Bender's cousin, may not be charged if evidence points to him shooting in self-defense or to protect someone else.
According to the Free Press, police believe CCC Club bouncer Etheridge opened fire after Proof pistol-whipped Bender, fired a round into his head and stood over Bender and prepared to fire another shot. Etheridge allegedly shot Proof three times in the head and chest.
Without acknowledging that his client shot anyone, Etheridge's attorney, Randall Upshaw, has said that his client did nothing illegal, also claiming that Proof shot first.
"It's disingenuous to speak to the media to try and suggest that Proof shot first," Gorosh countered, according to the Free Press. "There are ways to determine what shots were fired and by whom. There's an ongoing investigation. ... Until all of the factual evidence has been evaluated, an opinion by the Detroit Police Department is premature."