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Slain Man's Family Sues Rap Singer and Entertainment Firms : Violence: Snoop Doggy Dogg already faces a murder charge in the killing. The filing also seeks damages from media companies for hiring his bodyguard, who allegedly was the gunman.

March 22, 1994|CHUCK PHILIPS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A wrongful death suit asking for $25 million in damages has been filed against Snoop Doggy Dogg and media giant Time Warner by the family of a man who authorities say was gunned down last August by the Long Beach rapper's bodyguard.

The 22-year-old entertainer, whose real name is Calvin Broadus and whose "DOGGYSTYLE" album has generated more than $40 million in sales, already faces a murder charge in the slaying of Philip Woldemariam in a Palms-area park.

He is accused of driving the vehicle from which his bodyguard, McLinley Lee, allegedly shot and killed Woldemariam, 20. Both men and their companion, Shawn Abrams, pleaded not guilty Oct. 1, claiming self-defense.

"There are no words to express my family's grief and outrage over this loss," said the victim's father, Woldemariam Ghilamariam, a Long Beach building contractor..

"I can't tell you how devastating it is to see the man charged with my son's murder not only out walking free but being honored on award shows and performing constantly on TV," he said.

Lee and Abrams also are named as defendants in the suit, as are several corporations affiliated with the rapper's music, including Time Warner, Warner Music Group and Interscope Records.

The Woldemariams' suit accuses the entertainment firms of negligently hiring a bodyguard who allegedly engaged in reckless conduct leading to the Aug. 25 killing.

The suit was filed Nov. 12 by the Woldemariams, who say they were advised at the time by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office not to speak to the news media. However, their attorney, Nathaniel J. Friedman, said the couple decided last week to speak out.

Members of the Woldemariam family expressed dismay over the portrayal of their relative as a violent gangster who stalked Broadus.

"They are trying to make Philip out to be some dangerous criminal when nothing could be further from the truth," said Woldemariam's sister, Sophia.

Broadus, Lee and Abrams could not be reached for comment. Executives at Time Warner, Warner Music Group and Interscope declined to comment.

The rapper's attorney, David Kenner, characterized the suit as a "transparent attempt to profit from the gang-related activities of their son.

"It's clear from the evidence presented to the grand jury that Philip Woldemariam was responsible for his own demise," Kenner said.

The prosecution and defense teams agree that Woldemariam had a verbal confrontation with Abrams and Broadus about an hour before the shooting in front of an apartment building where Broadus was living, and that Woldemariam might have been armed. But the prosecutor said the people in Broadus' vehicle chased Woldemariam to the park and provoked the fatal shooting.

After a second verbal altercation, McKinley fired seven shots, one of which fatally wounded Woldemariam in the back, police said. Broadus, Lee and Abrams surrendered a week later.

"The self-defense claim does not fly in this case," said Edward Nison, a deputy district attorney in the hard-core gang division. "The defendants went looking for trouble, and the end result was a shooting."

Broadus served a brief jail sentence in 1990 for drug dealing and is listed in police files as a member of the Long Beach Insane Crips. But the rapper has said he ended his gang involvement while in high school. Woldemariam is in the files of a police anti-gang unit as a member of the By Yourself Hustlers, a gang based in the Miracle Mile area.

Kenner said that Woldemariam, on probation after serving a jail term for negligent discharge of a firearm on a junior high school playground, had threatened Broadus' life on several occasions, including once last summer during the filming of a video.

The Woldemariams insist that their son had never met Broadus until 40 minutes before he was slain. They also say two of Woldemariam's friends who witnessed the shooting told detectives in August that the victim was unarmed.

Those witnesses, however, testified during a grand jury investigation in November that Woldemariam had a gun tucked in his waistband and may have been reaching for the weapon before he was shot. Woldemariam's family say the witnesses altered their accounts because they were intimidated by gang members associated with Broadus. Police said there is no evidence that the witnesses were threatened.

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