NEW YORK Rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs was arrested on a weapons charge Monday afternoon (Dec. 27) after being questioned about a triple shooting at a Manhattan nightclub earlier in the morning, police said.
Singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, who was with Combs, also was charged, but the count was dropped within an hour when the Manhattan district attorney decided not to prosecute her, officials said.
Combs and two other people who were driving with him and Lopez in a Lincoln Navigator were stopped by police near the club shortly after the 2:30 a.m. shootings and were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and possession of stolen property, according to Officer Joseph Cavitolo, a police spokesperson.
Cavitolo said officers found a stolen gun in the vehicle, making all of the occupants subject to the charges.
No one has been charged with the actual shootings, but the Associated Press quoted police sources as saying eyewitnesses told them that Combs was a gunman in the incident.
Lawyers for Combs and Lopez could not be reached for comment. Reuters quoted Combs publicist Dan Klores as saying Combs and Lopez were "victims of circumstances" who had been in "a life-threatening situation" when they were stopped by police.
Police arrested Jamal Barrow, 19, outside the club and charged him with criminal possession of a 9 mm handgun, according to Officer David Lanuto, another police spokesperson. The AP identified Barrow as the rapper Shyne, who is signed to Combs' label, Bad Boy Entertainment.
Three people were hit by gunfire in the incident at Club New York on West 43rd Street. Natanya Ruben, 29, was the most seriously hurt, according to police. She was shot in the face and was in stable condition at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan.
The other two victims, Robert Thompson, 39, and Julius Jones, 27, were hit in the shoulder. Jones was in stable condition at St. Vincent's; Thompson refused medical treatment.
Combs and Lopez, who police said are each 30 years old, spent the morning being questioned by detectives at two Manhattan precincts, as did the two people they were driving with, 41-year-old Anthony Jones and 34-year-old Wardell Fenderson.
Cavitolo said police were trying to determine a motive.
Combs and Lopez were attending a Sunday night party at Club New York, along with other celebrities, including several professional athletes, according to Eric Funk, a club manager. He said he could not name the athletes.
"Everyone here was having a good time," Funk said. "There was a scuffle at the end of evening by the bar. Shots were fired."
In September, Combs pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment in a case in which he had been charged with attacking record executive Steve Stoute with a chair, a telephone and a champagne bottle in April. Combs was ordered to attend a one-day anger-management counseling program.
Combs has said he was angry at Stoute, who is a consultant to rapper Nas, over the video for Nas' "Hate Me Now," in which Combs appears. In the initial version of the video, Combs was shown hanging from a cross.
Combs, who gained fame for his production work with the late rapper the Notorious B.I.G., became a star on his own in 1997 with the multiplatinum album No Way Out, which included the hit singles "It's All About the Benjamins," "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" and "I'll Be Missing You" (RealAudio excerpt), a tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997.
Puff Daddy's second album, Forever, was released in August and debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Lopez, a dancer by training, was a successful film actress before emerging as a pop star this year. Her single "If You Had My Love" (RealAudio excerpt), from the album On the 6, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year.
Combs, Fenderson and Jones had yet to be arraigned Monday afternoon.