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Former NBA star Shawn Kemp is charged with 1st-degree assault in a March shooting

Former Seattle SuperSonics forward Shawn Kemp, center, attends a WNBA basketball game between the Seattle Storm and the Chicago Sky on May 18, 2022, in Seattle. Prosecutors in Washington state charged Kemp on Friday, April 14, 2023, with first-degree assault in a parking lot shooting last month over a stolen cell phone.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
Former Seattle SuperSonics forward Shawn Kemp, center, attends a WNBA basketball game between the Seattle Storm and the Chicago Sky on May 18, 2022, in Seattle. Prosecutors in Washington state charged Kemp on Friday, April 14, 2023, with first-degree assault in a parking lot shooting last month over a stolen cell phone.

Former NBA Seattle SuperSonics star Shawn Kemp was charged with first-degree assault after being arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting in Washington state last month, according to court documents.

An altercation broke out in the parking lot of the Tacoma Mall on March 8 that escalated into shots being fired, the Tacoma Police Department said after the incident. "One car fled," it stated, and one man was arrested at the scene.

In an interview with police, Kemp said he was shot at first when he confronted someone after tracking his stolen cell phone. No one was hurt in the incident.

Kemp was released from jail and not immediately charged, but on Friday the Superior Court of Washington for Pierce County said Kemp, allegedly armed with a .357-caliber revolver, acted with "intent to inflict great bodily harm, intentionally assault another person with a firearm or deadly weapon or by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death."

A witness reported seeing a person who matched the description of Kemp throw the revolver in the bushes after the incident, which Kemp admitted to, according to Tacoma police.

According to video surveillance seen by a detective, a silver Toyota 4Runner pulled into the mall's parking lot, but no one got out of the car. Kemp's Porsche pulled up a few minutes later and Kemp is allegedly seen getting out of his car, retrieving a black backpack from the vehicle and approaching the 4Runner.

Kemp told police a phone was stolen from his car the day of the incident and he initially tracked it to a silver SUV at the Emerald Queen Casino in Fife, Wash. There, he asked the occupants of the SUV if they had items that belonged to him, though their answer is not specified.

Police later confirmed the 4Runner was stolen and the driver was the same in both incidents.

Kemp then tracked the vehicle to Tacoma Mall, where Kemp said he was shot at after approaching the 4Runner and demanding his property back.

"Kemp was adamant in his interview that he had retreated to his vehicle after he was shot at, and then shot back at the 4Runner," a detective said. "However, the video clearly showed Kemp getting the revolver out of the backpack as soon as he gets out of his Porsche."

The police department's findings do not say Kemp fired the initial shot, but that he "was standing in close proximity to where the live .357 magnum round was recovered and it was the same caliber as the revolver Kemp had used."

It is unclear at what point the driver of the 4Runner exited the vehicle, but detectives said after Kemp became "very animated," the person attempted to drive away, but the open driver's side door got lodged against the vehicle next to it.

Kemp then allegedly walked to the front of the 4Runner and fired a shot in its hood and walked back to his car. At several points, Kemp walked between his car and the 4Runner and eventually reached in the trunk for something, but did not remove anything from it, police said.

Police later found an AR-style pistol in the trunk while executing a search warrant of Kemp's car, but did not find any magazines or ammunition. They also found five .357 caliber cartridges in Kemp's jacket pocket, one on the ground and two unused ones in the center console of his car, police said.

The driver of the 4Runner eventually dislodged the vehicle's door, and Kemp, upon noticing, began walking toward the vehicle with his pistol and a verbal argument ensued. He then allegedly fired another shot at the 4Runner, and its driver exited the vehicle with their hands up and faced Kemp. Kemp walked back to his Porsche and both parties left, police said.

Forensic evidence shows the 4Runner had been shot three times. Kemp later contacted police after thinking he would be identified by his license plate, a detective said.

During their search warrant, police said they also found a cell phone on Kemp's person. Upon searching the phone, police found that Kemp sent a text message saying he had his phone back and another one saying "I'm about to shoot this mf" 13 minutes before he arrived at the mall, police said.

Under Washington state law, the crime of drive-by shooting applies to anyone who fires a gun either directly from a vehicle or from "the immediate area of a motor vehicle that was used to transport the shooter or the firearm, or both, to the scene of the discharge," creating "a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury."

Kemp, famously known as "the Reign Man," was a six-time NBA All-Star during his career, with most of those appearances coming during his eight-season stint with the Seattle SuperSonics. The franchise moved to Oklahoma City roughly a decade after Seattle traded Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie