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‘Puff Daddy’ Combs Arrested in N.Y.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rap entrepreneur Sean “Puffy” Combs was charged Monday with criminal possession of a weapon after a gun was found in the sport utility vehicle in which he and actress-singer Jennifer Lopez were riding following a shooting that wounded three people at a Times Square dance club.

Another rapper, Jamal Barrow, 19, was arrested outside the club in possession of a gun and later charged with three counts of attempted murder. Barrow, a highly touted new performer known professionally as “Shyne,” is signed to Combs’ Bad Boy record label and was a guest artist on Combs’ latest album.

New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir said that Combs and two others--a bodyguard and driver--face both the weapon charge and one for possession of stolen property. Police spotted “a pistol on the right front seat” of the vehicle, which was stopped about 2:30 a.m. Monday after it left the scene of the shootings and ran a red light. “None of the occupants claimed possession” of the weapon, which reportedly had been listed as stolen in Georgia, Safir said.

Combs and Lopez were held for hours at the Midtown South precinct before Safir announced the charges about noon at City Hall. Police initially said Lopez would be charged, but a few hours later Manhattan prosecutors changed their minds and she was released. Combs was arraigned and released late Monday night after posting $10,000 bail. He is due back in court Feb. 14.

The arrest was the second this year for Combs, who, in addition to being a top-selling rapper (he records as “Puff Daddy”), is a noted producer and chairman of the Bad Boy Entertainment record label. His company generated nearly $130 million last year for the Bertelsmann Music Group, the Germany-based entertainment conglomerate. Bad Boy is a joint venture with Arista Records, which is wholly owned by BMG. Arista referred queries on Monday to the Bad Boy office, where calls were being picked up by an answering machine.

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Combs was charged in April with felony assault after an attack on Interscope Records executive Steve Stoute. The incident grew out of a dispute over Combs’ participation in a music video by a rap artist managed by Stoute, who told authorities that Combs and two bodyguards burst into his New York office at Seagram Co.'s Universal Music Group and kicked and pummeled him.

Combs pleaded guilty in September to a reduced harassment violation--which left him with no criminal record--and was sentenced to a one-day class in anger management.

The rapper’s career has been marked by incidents of violence. Combs witnessed the fatal shooting of his close friend and Bad Boy artist Notorious B.I.G. in March 1997, when the rapper, born Christopher Wallace, was shot outside an industry party in Los Angeles.

The shooting followed years of tension in which Combs’ success was dogged by suspicion in law enforcement circles about his involvement in a bicoastal feud between his label and Los Angeles-based Death Row Records. Wallace’s death was preceded by the fatal 1996 shooting in Las Vegas of Death Row artist Tupac Shakur. Police have yet to solve the murder of either Shakur or Wallace.

Dan Klores, a publicist for Combs, said Monday that the top-selling rapper and Lopez were fleeing from “a life-threatening situation” and had “absolutely, positively nothing to do with this shooting.”

A 29-year-old Brooklyn woman was treated at a local hospital for wounds to the face and a Brooklyn man, 27, for wounds to the shoulder. Another man refused treatment for wounds to the shoulder.

Eric Funk, the manager of the club, said Combs, 30, had frequented the club “many times before.” He and Lopez, 29, were part of a cadre of celebrities and athletes in the crowd of 300 to 400 people.

Klores declared Combs’ innocence, saying, “the gun was neither my client’s nor Ms. Lopez’s. Mr. Combs and Ms. Lopez unwittingly got into a car to escape a life-threatening situation. They are a mere victim of circumstance.”

Lopez has emerged as a star in recent years through performances in “Selena” and “Out of Sight.” Her hit debut album, “On the 6,” was released by Sony in June.

Times staff writers Chuck Philips and John J. Goldman contributed to this story.


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