One person has died and three others were shot during a gun battle involving members of rapper T.I.'s crew and unidentified shooters early Wednesday morning (May 3) in Cincinnati. Police have identified the man killed as 26-year-old Philant Johnson, T.I.'s friend, personal assistant and an employee of his Grand Hustle Records.
"This is a very sad day for everyone at Atlantic Records and Grand Hustle," read a statement released by Atlantic on Wednesday. "Philant Johnson was a part of our family and a true friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Johnson family, T.I. and everyone at Grand Hustle."
Police identified the other three victims in the shooting as members of T.I.'s crew: Janice Gillespie, 22, who was admitted to the University of Cincinnati Hospital and is in stable condition, and T.I. security guard Ronald Hausley, 40, and Elijah Edwards, 31, who were both treated and released. T.I. was not injured.
According to the Cincinnati Police Department, officers responded to a report of a shooting on southbound Interstate 75, one of two main arteries that lead to Cincinnati's downtown, around 3 a.m. "Officers found four victims at the scene suffering from gunshot wounds," according to the report. "All four victims were transported to University Hospital for treatment, where one of the victims succumbed to his injuries."
The incident occurred just hours after the end of a show by the 25-year-old rapper (born Clifford Harris) and protégé Yung Joc at Bogart's nightclub in the Clifton neighborhood near the University of Cincinnati. Following the show, T.I. and his crew went to an after-hours party at the Ritz nightclub in the Roselawn neighborhood across town, where an altercation inside the club caused the Atlanta crew to leave.
Witnesses told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the problems began when a large group of men at the Ritz got offended when money was thrown from the stage by a member of T.I.'s posse. "It was supposed to be for the ladies," a witness told the paper. "But [the money] was hitting the guys in the face and they were like, 'We got money, so why are you throwing money at us?' "
The tensions led to T.I. moving his crew out of the club, telling them, "Come on, let's go. Let's go," according to the witness, while the angry Cincinnati contingent said, "Yeah, let's go." At that point, four people, believed to be locals, got into SUVs and began pursuing T.I.'s crew's two vans.
"They were pursued from the parking lot by two dark-colored sport utility vehicles," according to the police report. "A gun battle ensued, causing the injuries and death to the persons listed above."
The shooting led to the closing of the southbound lanes of I-75 during the morning rush hour as police investigated the three-mile-long crime scene and the two bullet-riddled vans. Police would not comment on whether the vans were occupied at the time they were found. The road reopened around 10 a.m.
Community leaders and police asked the Cincinnati City Council to close down Club Ritz last year after several incidents at the club, but council members voted against it. Two months later, in June 2005, three people were shot in front of the club after a fight spilled outside. The club's owner said at the time that he would close the bar until he could resolve security problems and guarantee the presence of enough paid police and security officers. The witness told the Enquirer there were plenty of law-enforcement officers at the club when the incident occurred.
[This story originally published at 8:32 a.m. ET on 05.03.06]