The family of 35-year-old Army veteran Keith Bender Jr. filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the estate of D12 rapper Proof on Monday in Michigan's Wayne County Circuit Court. The suit stems from the April 11 shooting inside Detroit's CCC after-hours club that left both men dead.
According to The Associated Press, the suit charges that Proof "violently assaulted and battered [Bender], culminating with the infliction of a gunshot injury that caused [his] death" (see "Man Allegedly Shot By D12's Proof Dies"). Proof died the morning of the shooting. Bender was hospitalized in critical condition and placed on life support. He died a week later.
The suit — filed by lawyers for Bender's wife, Jacqueline, and mother, Leona — names Proof's wife, Sharonda Holton, in her capacity as representative of the rapper's estate, but does not list the specific monetary damages being sought.
The suit claims that Proof (born DeShaun Holton) was known to carry weapons and had "violent propensities."
"It is shameful that [Proof] is being lauded as a hero and martyr, when, in fact, it was his own criminalistic conduct that not only led to his death, but took the life of an honorable, innocent man," said Michael Cafferty, one of the Bender family's lawyers, in a press statement.
Witnesses to the early-morning shooting told police that Bender's cousin, Mario Etheridge, fired on Proof three times — once to the head and twice to his chest — after the rapper pistol-whipped and then shot Bender in the face (see "Details In Proof Shooting Emerge As Police, Second Victim's Family Speak Out"). Police say the argument between Proof and Bender stemmed from a dispute over a game of pool.
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Etheridge, who worked security at the club, has not been charged with Proof's death. He's awaiting trial on two firearms-related felonies (see "Proof Shooting Suspect Charged — But Not With Murder ").
Last week, Etheridge's attorney, Randall Upshaw, told reporters that Proof was intoxicated at the time of the incident. He alleges that Proof approached Bender and the two men argued for several minutes before being separated, and says Etheridge's actions prevented Proof from hurting others inside the club (see "Bouncer's Lawyer: Proof Argued With Another Man Before Shooting"). Upshaw insists that Etheridge was unarmed when he showed up for work, and must have either been handed a gun or grabbed someone's gun during the altercation.
The attorney further claims that Proof first argued with another man before turning on Bender; Upshaw maintains that Proof used a friend's gun to shoot Bender.
According to the Detroit News, toxicology test results indicate Proof was intoxicated at the time of the shooting. Albert Samuels, chief investigator for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, told the paper that Proof's blood-alcohol level was .32, four times Michigan's legal limit of .08 for intoxication. There were no drugs present in his system other than nicotine.