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Self-defense claimed in rapper’s death
After a dispute in Atlanta, the accused felt threatened in a random encounter in L.A., his attorney says.

May 21, 2009

By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Richard Winton

The attorney for an Atlanta man accused of killing rapper Dolla earlier this week said his client opened fire after feeling threatened by the rapper and his entourage during a chance encounter at the Beverly Center.

Aubrey Louis Berry, 23, was arrested Monday at Los Angeles International Airport on charges of shooting Dolla, whose real name was Roderick Anthony Burton II, while he stood at the valet waiting area of the popular Westside shopping center.

Police allege that Berry, a promoter who had an altercation with Burton at an Atlanta strip club earlier this month, fired at Burton, 21, and two people who were with him.

“This is not a murder case,” said Berry’s attorney, Howard R. Price. “At worst it’s a man-slaughter case, at best it’s a case of self-defense,” he said.

Los Angeles Prosecutors disagreed, charging Berry on Wednesday with one count of murder and two counts of assault with a firearm. Police said that no other weapons were recovered from the scene and that Burton was unarmed. A judge set bail at $5 million.

“Our prosecutors believe the evidence was sufficient for a murder filing,” said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorneys office. “We try our cases in the courtroom, not on the sidewalk.”

Price said Berry and Burton clashed at the Platinum 21 Adult Entertainment club in Atlanta. Berry and Burton happened to run into each other Monday in the restroom of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in the Beverly Center in what Price described as a chance encounter.

Price says the rapper threatened Berry, who decided to leave the restaurant. When Berry went to the mall’s valet area for his car, Burton and two other people followed him, the attorney said. Berry thought Burton was reaching for his waistband and fired his weapon. “He perceived that his life was in danger,” Price said.

But some legal scholars said the argument may be difficult to prove.

Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School, said Berry might have a hard time proving self-defense. “It doesn’t add up here. He’s in a public place,” she said. “He had so many other alternatives.”

Los Angeles police say Berry pulled out a gun and shot Burton several times as Burton stood near another rapper, D.J. Shabbazz.

Burton was pronounced dead a short time later at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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