Mecklenburg prosecutors on Monday dismissed charges against six men arrested after a daytime shootout at a car stereo store where rapper Waka Flocka Flame had been talking to fans and getting his picture taken.
One man suffered a gunshot wound in the February shooting that drew widespread attention because of the rapper's fame and his previous scrapes with violence and the law.
The rapper's publicist said the shooting started after several men tried to rob Waka Flocka Flame of his jewelry.
But prosecutors have little to go on, they said, because none of the witnesses identified who was responsible for the shooting. They also said there was no evidence of an attempted robbery.
"We didn't have enough evidence to prosecute any of them," District Attorney Andrew Murray told the Observer. "The defendants are still in custody. That's why we need to dismiss the charges now.
"I'm not thrilled about having to dismiss these charges. Some of these guys have felony records."
It's the second time in less than a week that Murray, who took office in January, has announced he was dropping charges in a high-profile case. On Thursday, Murray dropped a murder charge against a former nurse anesthetist who'd been accused of killing a high school classmate while monitoring the woman's recovery after cosmetic surgery.
In the rapper case, prosecutors dropped charges of attempted armed robbery, conspiracy and discharging a weapon into occupied property were dismissed against six men, whom police believed were involved in the shootout at the Car Stereo Warehouse on Independence Boulevard.
Waka Flocka Flame's given name is Juaquin Malphurs. The 24-year-old rapper has been the target of robberies before, according to his MySpace page, which says he was shot at an Atlanta car wash during an alleged robbery attempt in January 2010. The rapper has also faced charges of drug and weapons possession and criminal street activity, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In dismissal papers filed late Monday, prosecutors included a two-page description of the Charlotte shootout and an explanation of why they dropped the charges.
"There has been no identification by any alleged victim or witness of any of the six defendants as being present and/or firing a weapon during the incident," the court papers say.
The only evidence placing any defendant at the scene, prosecutors said, were statements from the defendants who agreed to speak with detectives after their arrest.
"Although many details of the incident differ, these defendants were in agreement that no one who went to this stereo store had any intent to rob anyone," prosecutors wrote. "They said their intent was to 'chill,' 'hang out,' or 'holler at' the rap artist.
"They are also in agreement that if anyone who was with them fired a weapon, it was only because a person or persons associated with (the) rap artist fired at them first."
Prosecutors said according to Waka Flocka Flame's brother - the victim of the alleged offense - there was no demand for property and no display of any firearm, until he himself felt threatened and pulled a gun. The brother is not named in the papers.
"Thinking that something was going to happen is no evidence that these crimes occurred," prosecutors wrote.
The Feb.16 shootout happened after Waka Flocka Flame brought his tour bus from Atlanta to the Charlotte stereo store to have its sound system upgraded.
Police were called to the store at 4:16 p.m. about shots being fired. Once police arrived, they found the rapper and his brother in the bathroom of the store. They also said they found a handgun in a bathroom trash can, and located several 9mm and 45-caliber shell casings near the tour bus and street. There was bullet damage to both the tour bus and the stereo store.
Waka Flocka Flame's brother told police he was outside the bus when an SUV and another vehicle pulled up. Three men got out of the SUV and approached "in a way that he felt threatened causing him to feel something might be going to happen," the dismissal papers say.
Murray told the Observer the rapper's brother was wearing more than $100,000 worth of jewelry around his neck.
The brother, prosecutors say, "saw no weapon displayed nor was there any demand made for any money. He then pulled a 9 mm handgun he had concealed on his person and held it in a position as if ready to fire."
The rapper's brother told police that someone then shot at him.
A security guard for the rap artist was on the tour bus and heard the shots.
"He came off the bus (and) he fired at someone he saw firing a gun," prosecutors say.
The two vehicles then drove away.
Police developed Antonio Stukes and Xavier Hoover as suspects when both showed up at a local hospital in a vehicle matching the description of one of the suspect vehicles, according to the dismissal papers. Stukes was treated for a gunshot wound.
Police charged Stukes and Hoover. But the rapper's brother and security guard could not identify either suspect from photo lineups, prosecutors said.
Stukes' attorney said his client wasn't trying to rob the rapper.
"He was an innocent bystander who only went there to talk to Mr. Waka about getting a record deal," Adam Seifer told the Observer.
Four other men - David Bellamy, Antoine Washington, Berry Lawrence and Andre Sellers - also were charged in the shootout.
But prosecutors said Monday they believe that had the defendants been put on trial, a judge would dismiss the charges for lack of evidence.
Staff researcher Maria David contributed