Rap­per’s pro­tec­tor jailed in shoot­ing

Per­former ends up in same court

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - LINDA SATTER

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.

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