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Lawyer says Suge Knight was behind wheel in deadly crash

January 30, 2015

COMPTON, California (AP) — Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man as he fled attackers, his lawyer said. Authorities said the incident was being investigated as a homicide.

Knight, 49, planned to turn himself in to authorities and “we are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated,” attorney James Blatt said by telephone.

A red pickup truck struck the men at around 3 p.m. PST on Thursday in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in the Los Angeles-area city of Compton and then took off, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina told reporters. He said the incident is being investigated as a homicide.

“Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again,” Corina said.

“The people we talked to say it looked like it was an intentional act,” he said.

A 55-year-old man died at a hospital and a 51-year-old man was injured but Corina did not immediately know his condition.

The empty truck was found late Thursday night in a West Los Angeles parking lot, Corina said.

Corina said investigators didn’t have any witnesses who said Knight was driving it, but the rap mogul was seen driving a red pickup truck 20 minutes earlier in a different part of town where a video was being shot.

Knight got into some kind of argument at the earlier location and drove off, he said.

Witnesses said another argument developed at the restaurant parking lot before the accident, Corina.

Blatt said it was an accident.

“He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men and in an effort to escape he unfortunately hit two (other) individuals,” the lawyer said. “He was in his car trying to escape.”

Blatt said Knight would negotiate to surrender but did not indicate when that would happen and said he had not yet spoken to Knight.

Compton has been immortalized in hip-hop folklore, including on many of the records Knight released, as a gritty and violent urban environment, though crime has dipped significantly there since its 1990s peak.

Knight founded Death Row Records, one of rap’s leading labels, in the 1990s, releasing labels by artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

He later declared bankruptcy and the company was auctioned off.

Knight has a long history of run-ins with the law ranging from assaults to driving violations.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to a robbery charge filed over an incident in which a celebrity photographer accused him of stealing her camera in Beverly Hills. Because of prior convictions, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years’ probation for assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.

He also serve timed for probation violations.

Last August, Knight was shot six times at a Los Angeles nightclub. No arrests have been made.

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AP writer Robert Jablon contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

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