Rapper’s protector jailed in shooting
Performer ends up in same court
A bodyguard for Memphis rapper Ricky Hampton on Tuesday became the first person arrested in the July 1 shooting inside the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock.
Federal agents and Little Rock police officers arrested Kentrell Dominique Gwynn, 25, early Tuesday in Memphis, where he lives, on three charges related to the early-morning exchange of gunfire that left 25 people with gunshot wounds and to another shooting a week earlier in Forrest City in which a woman was shot in the neck.
Gwynn made his first appearance in federal court in Little Rock on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Hampton, also 25, appeared in the same courtroom to be arraigned on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm in the June 25 shooting outside a club in Forrest City.
Gwynn is charged in a federal complaint with providing a firearm to a convicted felon, providing armed security to a convicted felon and conspiracy to commit those crimes. His newly appointed attorney, Erin Cassinelli of Little Rock, entered an innocent plea on his behalf and said she may later seek a hearing to request his release until trial.
Minutes earlier, U. S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney also presided over Hampton’s arraignment on
his July 6 indictment on the federal firearm charge. Hampton is not charged in the Little Rock shooting, though authorities have described him as a “person of interest” in that investigation.
The judge noted that Hampton had filled out a financial affidavit saying he makes $ 40,000 a month, which Kearney said would disqualify him from having a court-appointed attorney. But for the purposes of the hearing, Kearney appointed Assistant Federal Public Defender Nicole Lybrand to represent Hampton, who uses the stage name Finese 2Tymes.
Lybrand said the income listed may be an “anticipated” amount, and she believes Hampton qualifies for government-paid legal service because he doesn’t have any assets. Kearney said he would have federal probation and pretrial officers look into the matter.
Lybrand entered an innocent plea on Hampton’s behalf to the charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. She told the judge that the St. Francis County jail, which is holding Hampton, has refused to consider releasing him until a federal court considers whether he should remain detained. She asked to scheduled a detention hearing for Friday, but Kearney said he can’t release the rapper as long as he is in somebody else’s custody.
For now, Kearney said he would place a federal detainer on Hampton ensuring that he is released into federal custody if the Forrest City jail discharges him.
In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon, Acting U.S. Attorney Patrick Harris, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner and Jeffrey Reed, resident agent in charge of the local office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said a shell casing found at the nowclosed Power Ultra Lounge at 220 W. Sixth St. after the July 1 shooting has been “preliminarily matched” to a gun found in Gwynn’s possession July 2, the date he and Hampton were arrested in Birmingham, Ala.
Hampton was scheduled to perform at the Side Effects nightclub in Birmingham when he was arrested about 1:15 a.m. July 1 on Arkansas firearm and aggravated-assault
warrants stemming from the shooting outside Club Envy in Forrest City early June 25 after a performance.
That shooting occurred after the rapper became angry at a woman whose car blocked his exit, authorities said. An ATF agent said in an affidavit that photographs and videos later posted on Facebook by witnesses in the Club Envy parking lot corroborate the woman’s statement to Forrest City police.
Agent Warren Newman also wrote that Hampton can be seen holding an AK-47style pistol and then standing in the opened passenger side of the Mercedes that had been directly in front of the woman’s car and began moving toward her while the rapper continued to scream at her.
The woman, Quaydria Thomas, got her vehicle turned around and tried to leave as fast as she could, later telling officers that she saw Hampton fire the gun at her as she drove away, shattering her car’s rear window and wounding her in the neck, the affidavit said. She drove herself to a hospital, it said.
The affidavit said Hampton has denied shooting at the woman and has said he doesn’t know who did, though the agent said that in the videos, Hampton “appeared to be the aggressor.”
Federal investigators who surprised the rapper and his crew as they arrived at the Birmingham club in a Mercedes driven by Gwynn, in which Hampton was a passenger, reported finding two .40-caliber handguns and an AK-47-style pistol in the car.
The ATF affidavit said Gwynn was wearing a “fugitive recovery agent” badge, a ballistic vest and a loaded .40-caliber pistol in a thigh holster, while another .40-caliber pistol lay on the driver’s seat next to him. The agents reported finding the loaded machine-gun-like pistol in the back seat.
Authorities said Tuesday that Gwynn carried a concealedcarry permit from Tennessee and claimed to be a bounty hunter. They said he denied owning the car but claimed ownership of all three guns, and told investigators that he was Hampton’s bodyguard and was with him onstage at the Power Ultra Lounge concert during the shooting, but that he didn’t shoot or know who fired any shots.
Police have said they believe multiple shooters combined
to fire 20 to 40 shots into the crowd about 2:30 a.m. Buckner, the Little Rock police chief, has attributed the shooting to a monthslong dispute between rival gangs.
The majority of the shooting victims were treated at hospitals and released, but about 10 remained hospitalized overnight or longer.
Tuesday’s news release said investigators determined that Gwynn purchased the Century Arms RAS47, 7.62 x 39mm AK-47-style pistol on May 26 in Memphis. It said a pawn ticket found in the Mercedes showed he had purchased the Glock 23 .40-caliber pistol — the one that was found with him on the car seat — in Memphis on July 1.
Both guns were bought at the American Loan Co., a federal firearms licensee, where security footage showed Hampton and Gwynn entering the store and picking out a gun.
The ATF said Hampton pleaded guilty in 2010 to two counts of aggravated robbery in Tennessee, for which he was sentenced to eight years in prison. That conviction makes it illegal for him to possess a firearm.
Investigators also reviewed multiple Facebook posts of Hampton with a gun like the AK-47-style pistol that Gwynn purchased. The news release
said that when Hampton was arrested in Birmingham, he said that during the shooting in Forrest City, he “pulled out the Draco,” referring to the AK-47-style pistol, but didn’t shoot it.
The affidavit, which was filed in support of the complaint against Gwynn, notes that spent .40-caliber Sig Sauer brand casings were found on the stage of the Little Rock club. It says shell casings from the Springfield XD 40 pistol that Gwynn was wearing in a thigh holster when arrested in Birmingham preliminarily matched a spent .40-caliber shell casing found at the scene of the Little Rock shooting.
Each charge Gwynn faces is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A criminal complaint precedes the next regular meeting of a federal grand jury, which will review the case before deciding whether to issue an indictment. Hampton was also initially arrested on a federal criminal complaint and days later was indicted by a grand jury.
In the joint news release, Buckner said, “By no means does this arrest signal the end of the investigation into the shooting at Power Ultra Lounge, but rather it demonstrates our commitment to bringing those involved to justice wherever possible.