L.A. city attorney charges suspect in Dave Chappelle attack at Hollywood Bowl
Hours after Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s office declined to file felony charges against a man who tackled comedian Dave Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced late Thursday afternoon that his office had filed four misdemeanor counts against the suspect.
Isaiah Lee, 23, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and was being held on $30,000 bail. On Wednesday, police released photos of a replica gun with a knife that Lee allegedly had in a bag during Tuesday night’s incident.
The district attorney’s office referred the case to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office for misdemeanor filing consideration. After reviewing the evidence, county prosecutors concluded that, although criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct. The district attorney’s office does not prosecute misdemeanor crimes within the city of Los Angeles.
According to a declination filed by the district attorney’s office, Lee did not use the weapon in the assault and Chappelle was not injured, so a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon was not warranted.
Lee now faces one count each of battery, possession of a weapon with intent to assault, unauthorized access to the stage area during a performance, and commission of an act that delays the event or interferes with the performer, according to court documents.
“This alleged attack has got to have consequences, and this afternoon, my office has filed charges,” Feuer said in a video statement. “My office takes protecting public safety extremely seriously and we are going to vigorously prosecute this case.”
In the declination, county prosecutors noted that Lee, an aspiring rapper, recorded a song in 2020 titled “Dave Chappelle” but “none of the lyrics, tone or language of the song suggested any threats or hatred towards the victim Dave Chappelle,” according to the document.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle Dodd wrote that Lee admitted to being under the influence of alcohol during the incident.
The declination stated that Lee was somehow able to get through the security screening process with a weapon described as a replica gun containing a folding knife with a roughly 3-inch blade.
Prosecutors noted that the knife doesn’t qualify as a dirk or dagger under state law because it was a folding knife in a retracted position, and that a stalking charge can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt because “no evidence was presented of a previous credible threat that might have caused [Chappelle] to be in reasonable fear of his safety.”
After he was tackled, Chappelle got back on his feet quickly and pushed Lee away, according to the declination. Lee then ran backstage, where he was detained by security.
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Lee “sustained injuries that required medical attention and he was transported to a local hospital,” according to the document. “There were conflicting media reports about whether the suspect brandished the weapon prior to or during the assault on Chappelle.”
Prosecutors noted that a slow-motion review of video footage showed Lee didn’t have the weapon in hand when he tackled Chappelle.
A security guard said that after Lee ran backstage, he reached for his waistband, according to the document. The security guard said he grabbed Lee’s hand, causing the weapon to fall to the ground.
“The security guard believed that the weapon was a gun, so he tried to empty the chamber, but was unsuccessful because the weapon lacked a chamber or ammunition,” the document stated.
The guard then realized that the gun was a replica with a folding knife in a retracted position, according to the document. Chappelle wasn’t injured.
Investigators are still trying to determine how Lee evaded several layers of security at the Hollywood Bowl and managed to get onstage and attack the comedian.
Los Angeles Police Department sources told The Times that detectives are reviewing videos to better understand Lee’s movements that night.
The Bowl, which is owned and operated jointly by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., uses metal detectors to screen visitors.
“The safety of our artists, visitors and staff is the L.A. Phil’s top priority,” Sophie Jefferies, the philharmonic’s director of public relations, said in a statement Wednesday. “The incident ... remains an active investigation, and we are unable to comment further at this time.”
Jefferies later added that the philharmonic is reviewing existing internal and external procedures “with the assistance of outside experts” in order to continue providing a safe, secure environment at the Hollywood Bowl.
“We have implemented additional security measures, including an increased number of security personnel on-site to assist with bag checks and other security procedures,” she said. “We continue to cooperate with authorities in their ongoing investigation.”
Despite not being credentialed, Lee got onto the stage without being challenged, LAPD sources said.
An entrance without metal detectors and searches exists but is not publicly accessible, according to the sources. Security inside the venue is provided by a contractor.
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A video of the incident shows a man, later identified as Lee, rushing from the left side of the stage as Chappelle is about halfway through his performance. The man appears to put his head down as he charges at the comedian, knocking Chappelle backward and retreating across the stage as security swarms him.
Video also shows paramedics putting the restrained man, who appeared to have an arm injury, onto a stretcher. Fans booed as paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
After the man rushed the stage, several people came to Chappelle’s aid, including actor and comic Jamie Foxx.
Public records show Lee most recently lived in Redondo Beach with his brothers. He was arrested by the LAPD under the name Arias-Lee in August 2019 in Hollywood on suspicion of misdemeanor battery but was never charged in that incident, according to booking and court records.
He told police during his arrest that he was homeless and was working as a laborer, records show.
According to a lawsuit filed by one of Lee’s brothers, Lee and his four siblings were deemed wards of the state and raised by their grandmother in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dave Chappelle attacker got replica gun with knife blade past Hollywood Bowl security checks
A comic seated up front says he warned security after seeing the suspect jump a barricade. ‘It could have been prevented,’ Tehran Von Ghasri said.
Lee’s brother told Rolling Stone that Lee did write a rap about Chappelle but described Lee as a gentle person.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about Isaiah. He’s a performing artist who tries to stay as positive as possible. He does have a history of mental health issues. He does take medicine. Maybe he missed out on taking his prescription. But he’s not the type to just lash out. I don’t understand,” Aaron Lee told Rolling Stone.
Times staff writers Matthew Ormseth and Hannah Fry contributed to this report.
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