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2 shot at party that featured rapper Diddy

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
uptown event
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The event at the Sheraton in uptown was promoted as hosted by hip hop recording artists Diddy, Future and Fabolous.

A man and a woman were both shot in the leg early Sunday during a party that featured rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs and took place after the CIAA tournament, according to police and witnesses.

The shooting happened about 2 a.m. in a ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel, sending thousands of CIAA fans and others streaming onto McDowell Street early Sunday.

It was the first highly publicized incident of violence during the CIAA tournament, which has taken place in uptown Charlotte for the past nine years. And it comes at a critical juncture for the city and tournament organizers, who are trying to decide whether to hold the event in Charlotte in coming years. The tournament is one of the city’s biggest tourism draws, bringing in about $40 million.

According to police reports, Michelle Hardy, 33, of Virginia Beach, suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to Carolinas Medical Center. Miguel Antonio King, 35, of Las Vegas, also suffered a gunshot wound and was hospitalized.

Hardy and King could not be reached Monday afternoon.

Through a spokesperson, CIAA Tournament Commissioner Jacquie Carpenter declined to comment on the incident because it was not a CIAA-sanctioned event.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Todd Lontz said the hotel party where the shooting occurred “wasn’t a CIAA-sponsored event, but it was one of the many party venues.”

Police have not released the names of the victims or said whether they had any connection to Combs or other headliners at the venue. They also haven’t announced arrests or suspects in the shootings. The investigation is ongoing, Lontz said.

Organizers had billed the event as a grand finale party to the tournament, although they never listed the CIAA Tournament’s name on advertisements. They didn’t return e-mails seeking comment on Sunday.

The party started Saturday night, as the final game between Winston-Salem State University and Livingstone College was still going on. In addition to Combs, the event featured performances by rappers Fabolous and Future on a 3-foot elevated stage flanked by video screens.

General admission started at $100, but partygoers could shell out more money for bigger perks, according to a webpage describing the event. Paying the top price of $10,000 would get attendees a sofa on the stage near celebrities and 15 bottles of alcohol in the hotel’s first-floor Symphony Ballroom.

DJs played rap and R&B music throughout the night for thousands of people, a witness said, although police and organizers have not given an estimate of how many people attended. Combs also performed. The shooting happened in a gated-off raised VIP stage area.

Police and witnesses said an altercation escalated. Witnesses said three shots were fired, and thousands rushed out of the ballroom in minutes, leaving behind shoes, cigarette butts and liquor bottles.

Video from the scene showed some people sprinting from the hotel ballroom. Some fell and were stepped on. Others were stuck in a bottleneck at the hotel’s exit. Police officers could be seen running toward the direction of the gunfire.

One person was taken to the hospital, but the other was treated and released. The injured men were being treated inside Combs’ VIP area, a witness said, but it was unclear if they had connections to the rapper. It’s also not clear how close Combs or other artists were during the shooting.

WBTV reported that several people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries sustained while they were trying to escape the hotel.

Police haven’t said how many officers or other security personnel were present at the hotel or in the ballroom where the shooting happened. Charlotte Deputy Fire Marshal Jonathan Leonard said the event wasn’t over capacity, but he couldn’t provide specific numbers on Sunday.

Police routinely beef up their presence during the CIAA tournament because of the large crowds. The city deemed this year’s CIAA Tournament an extraordinary event, invoking an ordinance that gives police additional power to search people and their property.

But festivities around the tournament and the dozens of parties in and around uptown are typically not violent.

In 2007, a woman was injured when a bullet struck the party bus she was riding on East Seventh Street uptown in the hours after the tournament. Staff writers Elisabeth Arriero and Elizabeth Leland contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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