Dave Chappelle attacker got replica gun with knife blade past Hollywood Bowl security checks

Dave Chappelle holds a microphone and smiles.
Dave Chappelle, shown in 2016, was attacked onstage Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl during a Netflix Is a Joke festival performance.
(Lester Cohen / WireImage / Netflix)

A 23-year-old man carrying a replica handgun with a folding knife blade in the barrel ran onstage and tackled Dave Chappelle during the comedian’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl late Tuesday, apparently evading several layers of security.

Isaiah Lee was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and is being held on $30,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

LAPD sources said Lee, carrying a bag with the knife inside, was able to get past security searches and metal detectors. Despite not being credentialed, he got onto the stage without being challenged, the sources said.


Investigators are examining security video footage hoping to see exactly how Lee evaded the security check, police 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. The venue, 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.

A video of the incident shows the man rushing from the left side of the stage as Chappelle is about halfway through his performance. He appears to put his head down as he charges at the comedian, knocking Chappelle backward. The attacker retreats across the stage as security swarms him.

A knife that folds into a replica handgun shape, in closed and open positions
The fake handgun with the real knife blade inside that was taken from the suspect in the attack on comedian Dave Chappelle.
(Los Angeles Police Department)

Video shows paramedics putting the restrained man, who appeared to have an arm injury, onto a stretcher behind the stage. Fans booed as paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.

Chappelle was uninjured and continued the show. But the incident shocked fans and prompted a huge police response.

It also heightened existing worries about the safety of comedians in the wake of Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock during the Oscars after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Chappelle had addressed that situation earlier in his performance.


Chappelle is cooperating with the police investigation into the incident, Carla Sims, a spokeswoman for the comedian, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s Hollywood Bowl performance was Chappelle’s fourth in the last week as part of Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival, an event featuring artists at venues across Los Angeles. The edgy comic’s performance has him tied with the Monty Python troupe for the most headlined shows by any comedic act at the Hollywood Bowl, Sims said.

“The performances by Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl were epic and record-breaking, and he refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment,” she said.

A number of cameras captured the moment Dave Chappelle was tackled Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl. Here is a reconstructed timeline of events.

May 4, 2022

The motive for the attack was unknown.

At the show, comedian Tehran Von Ghasri was seated in the section directly in front of the stage among industry executives and celebrities such as Kyrie Irving, Rihanna and ASAP Rocky. In an interview with The Times, Von Ghasri recalled witnessing “a young man with a hoodie and a backpack hop over this barrier — much like you would hop over the hood of a car — slide across the barrier and land” close to the stage.

Von Ghasri said his “Spidey sense started tingling” and he alerted the nearest member of the Hollywood Bowl security team that someone had breached the barricade. The woman “kind of dismissed” his warning.

“It could have been prevented,” he said. “I couldn’t even get a phone in [the venue]. I don’t know how this person came in with a backpack and what is alleged to be a replica gun with a knife attached to it.... I just know that Chappelle’s team was very effective, and the Hollywood Bowl is usually a very safe place, so I was shocked that this happened.”


“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. “The incident ... remains an active investigation, and we are unable to comment further at this time.”

After the man rushed the stage, several people came to Chappelle’s aid, including actor and comic Jamie Foxx.

Stand-up comedians are tweeting about Dave Chappelle’s latest performance at the Hollywood Bowl, where a man attacked the comic onstage.

May 4, 2022

Rock, who had performed earlier that night, joined Chappelle onstage and joked: “Was that Will Smith?”

When the attack happened, Chappelle had just wrapped up a routine in which he talked about how comics have to worry more about their personal safety.

“The comedian had literally just said he now has more security because of all the uproar from his jokes about the Trans community,” tweeted BuzzFeed News reporter Brianna Sacks, who attended the show. She tweeted that “while the attacker was getting beat up,” Chappelle “made a joke about him probably being a Trans man.”

Before the incident, Chappelle called for his security guard, whom he introduced as Travis, to come onstage to bring the comedian a drink in a red plastic cup.


“This is my new security,” Chappelle told the crowd, adding that he’d beefed up his security detail because people had it “out for him.”

In a new stand-up performance, Dave Chappelle says he has three requirements before meeting with Netflix employees who disliked his latest comedy special.

Oct. 26, 2021

He then launched into a story about a man covered in racist tattoos who kept coming to his Ohio home and shouting the N-word at him. He had to get a protection order against the man, which he said the court explained was the only way police officers would be able to arrest the man.

“Or you could just shoot him,” Chappelle recalled the court administrator saying to him through a ventriloquist smile.

“I didn’t like that,” he said. Instead, he offered to facilitate a more rehabilitative approach toward his trespasser with the stipulation that it never be revealed he was the one footing the bill.

The comedian’s set was bookended by two standing ovations, and the crowd seemed receptive to him all night, which made the attack all the more shocking, according to attendees.

Several of the opening acts alluded to their comfort telling controversial jokes in the presence of a “Dave Chappelle audience,” and each time the crowd cheered appreciatively.


In Screen Gab No. 9, we explore the history behind the Dave Chappelle controversy, refresh your ‘Succession’ memory and recommend streaming thrillers.

Oct. 15, 2021

Since October, the Emmy-winning comic has been at the center of a public relations firestorm over jokes deemed transphobic. The controversy culminated in several Netflix employees walking out on the job and Chappelle’s fans also showing up at the protest to defend him.

The fallout has forced Netflix into a corner, divided the comedy community and led many to reassess Chappelle’s brand, “cancel culture” and freedom of speech. Netflix has refused to pull his hit special or label his jokes as hate speech, which were among the demands made by some of the streaming giant’s employees.

“We care deeply about the safety of creators and we strongly defend the right of stand-up comedians to perform on stage without fear of violence,” a Netflix spokesperson said Wednesday in a statement to The Times.

Criminal defense attorney Rachel Fiset — who is not linked to the suspect or the case — said the venue, its management, security team and producers could all potentially be liable if Chappelle decides to file a civil lawsuit.

“Chappelle has a strong argument that he could be attacked during a performance onstage and the venue should have protections in place for that,” Fiset said. “I am sure the Hollywood Bowl will take it upon themselves to investigate how this happened, including an investigation into how a deadly weapon was brought into the concert.”

Public records show that 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 the 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.

Lee is apparently an aspiring rapper who records under the name “NONAME_TRAPPER.” An Instagram account with the same handle also identifies Lee as associated with the moniker, but The Times was not able to authenticate either account.

His Spotify page lists a track titled “Dave Chappelle” from a 2020 album, “Born & die in the trap.”

Times staff writers Nathan Solis and Gregory Yee contributed to this report.