Three days before Jay-Z was due in court to face charges that he stabbed a record executive, the rapper and a man who's been identified in the past as his bodyguard were arrested early Friday morning when police allegedly found a loaded gun in the bodyguard's waistband.
Members of the New York City police department's street crime unit saw bodyguard Hamza Hewitt retrieve a gun from the front passenger seat of a car parked in front of Manhattan's Club Exit, according to police spokesperson Detective Carolyn Chew. Hewitt then entered the car, which drove off with Jay-Z and two other men inside. Police pulled it over moments after it left the club, Chew said.
Police found a loaded Glock .40-caliber gun in Hewitt's waistband, and arrested Hewitt, Jay-Z (born Shawn Carter) and the other two occupants of the car, Romero Chambers and Tyran Smith, according to Chew.
Hewitt was arrested last November for allegedly carrying another .40-caliber gun a Ruger backstage at a radio concert in Boston that featured Jay-Z, the Boston Herald reported at the time, identifying Hewitt as a bodyguard for the rapper. Smith, a longtime friend of Jay-Z, is the co-founder of the hip-hop label Carter Faculty. Chambers' name and age, meanwhile, match that of the owner of R&K Limousines, a Brooklyn, New York, company that boasts on its Web site of driving rap celebrities. A company employee would not comment on whether its owner was the man arrested Friday morning.
Jay-Z and the other occupants of the car are expected to be arraigned Friday night (April 13).
Jay-Z's lawyer, Robert Kalina, released a statement Friday afternoon saying, "We believe that the evidence in this case will show Jay-Z to be not guilty. We expect a quick resolution." "I would like to point out that numerous other celebrities have often used armed security guards," Kalina continued.
Before his arrest, Jay-Z made a surprise appearance onstage at Club Exit during a set by Ja Rule, joining him for a version of "Can I Get A ..." [RealVideo from Club Exit] The club was packed and peaceful during the event. New York state law dictates that if police find a gun in a car, everyone in the car can be charged with possessing that gun. An exception to that rule, however, occurs when the gun is found on the body of an occupant; usually, in that case, only that person would be charged. It's unclear how officers' claims to have seen Hewitt remove the gun from the car would affect charges against the other passengers, but for now, all four men are charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.
A person can also be charged with possessing a gun carried by someone else if prosecutors argue that they exercised "dominion or control" over the person with the gun.
The same laws were at the heart of the recent trial of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, in which the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy was charged with possessing a gun found in a car at the feet of his bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones. The prosecutor in the case argued that Combs was guilty of possessing that gun because he exercised control over both the car and Jones. Combs was acquitted after a trial that included testimony from the driver of the car, who had originally been charged with possessing the gun as well (see "Puffy Combs Acquitted; Shyne Guilty Of Assault, Gun Possession").
Jay-Z rapped about bodyguards and firearms on the track "Streets Is Talking," from his most recent album, The Dynasty: Roc la Familia. "You see me with a bodyguard, that means police is watchin'/ And I only use his waist to keep my Glock in," he rapped in the song's second verse. "But when sh-- goes down you know who's doin' the poppin'/ And if you don't know, guess who's doin' the droppin'." Jay-Z is scheduled to appear in court on Monday on charges of stabbing music industry executive Lance "Un" Rivera, with jury selection for a trial in that case possibly slated for that day (see "Jay-Z's Assault Trial Delayed Until Mid-April"). [This story was updated at 4:38 ET Friday, April 13, 2001.]