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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Puffy Combs now faces weapons charges but is protesting his innocence"
 real 28k

The BBC's Mark Devenport
"A lawyer for Combs insisted his client was innocent"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:39 GMT
Puff Daddy out on bail

Jennifer Lopez and Sean "Puffy" Combs last week

Rap artist Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs has been released on bail after being arrested and charged with criminal possession of a handgun.

Combs was taken into custody on Monday night after New York police allegedly found the weapon in his car. The weapon was later found to be stolen, adding a charge of possession of stolen property against the rap artist.

He has since been released on $10,000 (6,000) bail and is due back in court on 14 February.

Outside Manhattan Criminal Court Combs said: "I do not own a gun. I do not carry a gun. The charges and allegations against me are 100% false, I feel confident that in the next couple of days I will be vindicated and everything will be all right."

Combs, who was accompanied in the Jeep by singer Jennifer Lopez and two other men, was stopped by police as he left a New York nightclub where three people were shot and wounded.

Sean "Puffy" Combs: Hip-hop entrepreneur and performer
Police also arrested and charged Lopez with weapons and stolen property offences.

But prosecutors dropped the case against her "based on the evaluation of the evidence", police spokesman Wayne Brison said.

Lopez did not say anything to reporters or a handful of fans as she left a police station.

The couple were stopped with two others in the early hours of Monday, just after the shooting at Club NY in Manhattan.

The two other people in the Jeep - driver Wardel Fenderson and bodyguard Anthony Jones - were also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and stolen property.

Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez had absolutely, positively nothing to do with this shooting
Spokesman for Sean "Puffy" Combs
Jones was also charged with criminal possession of marijuana and a controlled substance.

Officer John Giammarino said none of the four had a licence for the gun, which was described as a 9 mm weapon.

He added officers stopped the car because it was leaving the scene of the shooting, and that it failed to stop at least one red light before finally pulling over.

A spokesman for Combs said that neither his client nor Ms. Lopez had any role in the shooting.

"Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez had absolutely, positively nothing to do with this shooting. The gun was neither my client's, nor Ms Lopez's.

"Both of them unwittingly got into a car to escape a life-threatening situation and they are mere victims of circumstance - in the wrong place at the wrong time."

'Motive unknown'

A 19-year-old man has been charged with firing the shots that caused the injuries. He has been charged with attempted murder.

Jennifer Lopez: From film star to pop star in 12 months
Police said the motive for the shooting, in which two men and a woman suffered minor injuries, was unknown.

The woman was shot in the face and was in a stable condition in hospital, and one man was hospitalised with a shoulder injury. The second man refused treatment for a shoulder injury.

During 1999 Jennifer Lopez conquered the pop charts around the world following leading roles in film hits such as Blood And Wine, Selena and Out Of Sight.

The 29-year-old's debut single If You Had My Love went to number one in the US, and her album On The Six has been a worldwide hit. She is also continuing with her film career.

Celebrity couple

Her relationship with Combs has also put her in the spotlight, with Combs denying the two are engaged to be married.

Combs, also 29, first made his name as a record producer and party promoter and head of his own hip-hop record label, Bad Boy Entertainment.

Proud of his New York background, he became embroiled in a well-publicised feud with Suge Knight, head of west coast rival Death Row Records. The bad feeling intensified following the fatal shootings of Death Row artist Tupac Shakur in 1996, and Bad Boy act The Notorious BIG in 1997.

More recently, he has become best known as a performer himself, under the name Puff Daddy.

In April, he was arrested for allegedly beating record executive Steven Stoute, who suffered a broken arm, a broken jaw, and cuts to his head.

Originally charged with assault, Combs pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of harassment and was ordered to undergo counselling.

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See also:
07 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Lopez: I'm no billion dollar babe
09 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Court rap for Puff Daddy
21 Jul 99 |  UK
Will hip-hop take the rap?

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