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Witness in Rapper Case Describes Killing : Courts: Victim’s companion tells of argument over gang loyalties outside Snoop Doggy Dogg’s apartment that led to shooting.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A verbal confrontation over gang loyalties outside Snoop Doggy Dogg’s apartment triggered a fatal shooting by the rapper’s bodyguard, a friend of the victim testified Thursday.

In the most detailed description yet of the killing, Jason London described how a common street dispute suddenly turned into gunfire, much the way it does in the violent lyrics of some of the famed rapper’s songs.

London, who became tearful during his testimony, testified that Snoop, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, and the bodyguard followed Philip Woldemariam for several blocks in Broadus’ vehicle before confronting and fatally shooting Woldemariam at a Westside park.

The witness said Woldemariam and some of Broadus’ friends got into an argument over gang loyalties outside Broadus’ Palms apartment Aug. 25, 1993. Woldemariam wanted to make it clear to the people in the group--who had made hand gestures identifying themselves as Long Beach gang members--that they were on the turf of his gang, the By Yerself Hustlers. As London, Woldemariam and a third man drove away from the rapper’s apartment, they were followed by Broadus’ vehicle, driven by the rapper and carrying bodyguard McKinley Lee and at least one other person.

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Lee and Broadus have been charged with murder in connection with the killing. They remain free on bail. Defense lawyers argue that the resulting killing was done in self-defense.

London told the jury that after a few minutes, the vehicle stopped following them, and they retreated to Woodbine Park to eat takeout Mexican food.

But it wasn’t long after they sat down on a park bench that they saw the vehicle again, this time driving slowly around the park, London said.

He said Woldemariam stood up and shouted, “What’s up?” He said he warned his friend not to approach the vehicle.

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“I thought there would be another altercation,” he said. “They had already chased us, and I was worried something was going to happen.”

London, who testified that he is an ex-gang member, said Woldemariam ignored him. He said Woldemariam, his hands in the air and a gun tucked in the waistband in back, approached Broadus’ vehicle and said: “I’m not trying to sweat y’all. I’m just letting you know where you’re at"--meaning he didn’t want trouble, but that Broadus and his friends were on Woldemariam’s gang turf.

The witness said someone in the vehicle yelled, “You ain’t lettin’ us know nothin’, punk.” He said Woldemariam responded, “Oh, I’m a punk?” Then the front passenger, whom London identified as Lee, yelled out, “What?”

London said Lee pulled a gun. He said he turned to run. As five shots were fired, he dove to the ground.

The next thing he knew, London said, his friend was hit.

Under questioning from the prosecution, London acknowledged that he had taken his eyes off Woldemariam for a few seconds and did not see if--as defense lawyers say--Woldemariam had reached for his gun. He also acknowledged that he lied to police when he told them Woldemariam did not have a weapon. Police recovered it months later.

“Why didn’t you want to tell?” Deputy Dist. Atty. Ed Nison asked him.

“I was worried,” he responded.

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As London spoke, Lee shifted anxiously in his chair, occasionally rocking back and forth. Broadus hunched forward.

With tears in his eyes, London described how his wounded friend ran, doubled over, toward an alley. He said he followed and found Woldemariam lying on his back in the apartment parking stall.

“What were you doing?” Nison asked.

“Trying to tell Phil to hold on,” London replied, crying.

As Woldemariam lay dying, London said, the third man they were with--Daushaun Joseph--removed the gun from Woldemariam’s waistband and hid it. Joseph and London then made a pact not to tell police what had happened, London testified.

When Nison asked him again why he lied, London said: “I was mad, upset. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I wasn’t thinking about anything except my friend was dead.”

Testimony is expected to resume Monday.


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