In 1993, Snoop Dogg, birth name Calvin Broadus, was taken to court following the death of Philip Woldemariam, an Ethiopian immigrant. To this day, there’s still some confusion about exactly what went down, how, and why. Woldemariam was shot by Snoop’s personal bodyguard, McKinley Lee. All of this followed a clash centered on gang pride. Snoop was eventually acquitted, but the event has gone down in history nevertheless. Here’s what occurred.
What went down with Snoop Dogg and Philip Woldemariam
According to testimonies made during the trial, which started in November of 1995, the whole scenario started with gang symbols and pride.
According to a Los Angeles Times article from 1996, two of Philip Woldemariam’s friends say their confrontation began outside of Snoop Dogg’s apartment. Woldemariam and his friends drove by the apartment, when some of Snoop’s friends flashed gang signs at them.
Woldemariam and his friends became angry, and told Snoop and company that they were in Woldemariam’s gang’s territory. Snoop and his friends hopped into his Jeep and started following Woldemariam and his retinue.
Eventually the group followed Woldemariam to Woodbine Park, where they accosted Woldemariam and company. A verbal altercation took place, and McKinley Lee claimed to see Woldemariam reaching for a weapon. He fatally shot Woldemariam.
Conflicting evidence and statements muddy the waters
Things quickly became complicated in the courtroom. With Snoop Dogg and McKinley Lee claiming self-defense, and Woldemariam’s side claiming murder, the situation become muddled.
It didn’t help that witnesses gave conflicting information and even lied to the police at the beginning of the investigation. Specifically, Woldemariam’s friends, Dushaun Joseph and Jason London told police that Wolemariam was unarmed, despite the fact that he was carrying a gun.
Later, Dushaun Joseph testified that he witnessed Woldemariam lift his shirt, as if he was reaching for his gun, right before Lee shot him.
There were other inconsistencies in eyewitness accounts. As reported by the Washington Post, details seemed to vary wildly.
“In his closing arguments, Re noted that one witness said the Jeep went in one direction while another said it went the opposite way; he also reminded jurors that one witness insisted that another was not even present to see the crime,” the publication reported.
Meanwhile, prosecution pointed out that it was absurd to suggest self-defense was in play, because the victim was shot in the back and buttocks.
Snoop Dogg was acquitted
In February 1996, both Snoop Dogg and McKinley Lee were acquitted of first- and second-degree murder. Snoop mentioned that this was a massive relief to him, as he was concerned over being there for his son.
“They made the right decision, you know what I’m saying? This has been an ordeal that has affected our lives for the past 2 1/2 years. I was just trying to figure out if I was going to be here to raise my son,” Snoop said at the time.
“Snoop is a kind and a gentle brother. I hope this trial taught people that there is nothing glamorous about gangsterism. I hope it helps people to separate the music, which is cool, from the reality, which is not,” said Sheena Lester at the time, then editor-in-chief of RapPages.
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