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Weapons charges filed in Proof shooting

Investigation ‘far from over’ prosecutor says; Eminem recalls ‘best friend’
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man was charged Friday with weapons violations in a shooting earlier this week that took the life of hip-hop artist Proof, a close friend of Eminem.

Mario Etheridge, 28, of Detroit, was charged Friday with carrying a concealed weapon and discharge of a firearm in a building, according to the Wayne County prosecutor's office.

"Our investigation in this case is far from over," Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.

Assistant prosecutor Maria Miller said that without the weapons charges, authorities would have had to release Etheridge from custody. But she would not comment when asked if more charges are possible.

"Our investigation into the death of Proof continues. There can't be any conclusions about anything until that investigation is completed," she said.

Etheridge will be arraigned Saturday in 36th District Court in Detroit. He has been held by police since he surrendered Wednesday afternoon; his attorney has said the shooting was in self-defense and Etheridge should not be charged.

If convicted, Etheridge faces a maximum of five years in prison on the concealed weapon charge and four years on the discharging a firearm count.

Detroit police said they were told by witnesses that Etheridge shot Proof early Tuesday after Proof shot Army veteran Keith Bender, 35, inside the CCC, a nightclub in a strip of businesses along Eight Mile Road.

The thoroughfare, which divides Detroit and its northern suburbs, was made famous in the 2002 film named for the road and which starred Eminem.

Bender remained in critical condition Friday with a gunshot wound to the head.

Etheridge's lawyer, Randall Upshaw, said they will fight the charges. He would not say whether his client fired the gun.

"If anyone discharged the weapon, it was in defense of others or themselves," he said. "If it takes discharging a weapon to save a life, then I find it disturbing that you would be charged with discharging a weapon."

Upshaw said the charges give police a reason to hold Etheridge while they investigate.

A message was left Friday for Proof's lawyer, David J. Gorosh, who previously has said that the police investigation will clear the rapper's name.

Proof's funeral will be held on Wednesday, said Khalid el-Hakim, vice president of Iron Fist Records, Proof's record label.

Eminem issued a statement Friday saying that Proof, 32, was his best friend and helped make him a star.

"He pushed me to become who I am. Without Proof's guidance and encouragement there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady," the statement said. "Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop."

"He inspired everyone around him. He can never, ever be replaced. He was, and always will be, my best friend," the statement said.

Proof was a member of the rap group D12 and was the best man in Eminem's January wedding.