Baltimore Sun

Prosecutors: Exchange led to Atlanta murders

The double murder for which Ravens star Ray Lewis has been charged began with a random, profanity-laced encounter between Lewis' party and two men who thought they had missed their ride home, according to prosecutors.

In their most detailed explanation yet of what they think happened on the morning of the slayings, prosecutors in Atlanta yesterday filed in court a two-page synopsis in support of a motion on evidence.

The Jan. 31 incident began as Jeffrey Gwen and Chris Shinholster, two visitors from Akron, Ohio, walked down a street at 4 a.m. in Buckhead, Atlanta's upscale nightclub district, the prosecutor's account says. The two were complaining to one another about their ride leaving without them.

Gwen, an African-American rapper, was loudly spewing vulgar, racial epithets to Shinholster , who is also black. Reginald Oakley of Baltimore, a member of the Lewis party, overheard Gwen's tirade, prosecutors say.

Oakley, who is also black, apparently found the remarks offensive or believed they were directed at him. He confronted Gwen, saying, "Who are you calling a expletives?" Shinholster told Gwen to ignore Oakley, which further enraged Oakley, documents say.

"Lewis intervened and pulled Oakley away from Gwen and Shinholster and toward the limousine," prosecutors say, referring to the 37-foot Lincoln Navigator that Lewis rented for his Super Bowl trip.

As most of the Lewis party got into the limo, Oakley allegedly yelled an expletive and headed back toward Gwen and Shinholster with his hand inside his pocket. Another member of the Lewis party, Joseph Sweeting, grabbed Oakley, "turned him around and told Gwen and Shinholster to wait until others could get Oakley into the limousine," prosecutors say.

At that point, Gwen allegedly saw a knife in Sweeting's hand.

With Lewis' party again climbing into the limo, two friends of the Ohioans, who had been with them earlier in the evening, came along. Jacinth Baker, 21, an art student, and Richard Lollar, 24, a barber, had grown up in Akron, but were then living in a suburb of Atlanta.

Within minutes, Baker and Lollar would be bleeding to death on the street. Sweeting, 34, of Miami, Oakley, 31, and Lewis, 24, are all charged with multiple counts of assault and murder. They have pleaded not guilty.

According to the prosecutors, the situation appeared nearly defused when Baker and Lollar approached Gwen and asked what was happening. "They are just drunk," Gwen replied. Lollar, as he passed the limo, allegedly directed his own vulgar comment toward it, calling his group the "OH 10" for Ohio 10.

According to the prosecutors, Baker and Lewis exchanged words, and Lewis began removing his necklace and approached him. Oakley and Sweeting got out of the limo. Oakley rushed Baker, who struck him on the side of the head with a champagne bottle. Baker and Lollar turned and ran.

Oakley quickly caught up to Baker, prosecutors say. He allegedly punched and beat him, and then picked the 145-pound man up and slammed him onto the street.

During the beating, Baker was stabbed four times, according to prosecutors, who do not specify who stabbed him.

Sweeting and Lewis cornered Lollar, the documents say, and Lewis allegedly grabbed Lollar and punched him in the chest.

"Sweeting, who was observed with a knife seconds earlier, also punched Lollar in the stomach. During the beating, Lollar was stabbed approximately four times," say the prosecutors, without specifying who stabbed him. Lewis' attorneys have said he was merely a "horrified bystander" during the melee and never threw a punch.

They have witnesses who will testify to that. Attorneys for Sweeting have indicated they may argue self-defense or that someone else stabbed the men. Oakley's lawyers have not publicly laid out their version of events.