Puffy Shares Rap in Stampede [1999-01-12]
Combs and Heavy D, whose real name is Dwight Myers,organized the star-studded, Dec. 28, 1991, event at CCNY, which turned into a wild crush when an overcapacity crowd tried to push into the 138th Street gym.
“It does not take an Einstein to know that young people attending a rap concert camouflaged as a ‘celebrity basketball game,’ who have paid as much as $20 a ticket, would not be very happy and easy to control if they were unable to gain admission to the event because it was oversold,” Court of Claims Judge Louis Benza ruled in a 73-page decision against the umbrella City University of New York.
Benza found the CUNY college 50 percent responsible and Combs and Myers 50 percent responsible.
The Court of Claims deals only with cases against the state, so the ruling has no legal effect on Combs and Myers.
The judge blasted them anyway. He said Combs’ security people were responsible for the fatal mistake of closing the stairwell door to the gym.
“Combs’ forces, who were fully aware of the crowd uncontrollably pouring down the stairwell, created something akin to a ‘dike,’ forcing the people together like ‘sardines'” and “squashing out life’s breath from young bodies,” the judge wrote.
He also found Puffy’s claims that he was fighting to save lives during the madness unconvincing.
Benza noted that a cop said he saw the rap phenom just “standing there [during the crush] with two women, and all three had money in their hands.”
Combs’ and Myers’ lawyers refused comment.
Combs has denied responsibility for the tragedy, but apologized to the victims last March, saying, “I deal with this every day of my life.”
Benza also subjected City College to a blistering attack.
“Had adequate security been provided and had proper crowd-control procedures been followed, the breaking of doors and the stampede could have been prevented,” the judge ruled.
In a written statement, CUNY said, “Benza’s ruling on the unfortunate tragedy at CCNY is under review … CUNY now has policies in place to ensure that college events are conducted in a manner consistent with public-safety requirements.”
The Court of Claims suit was brought by four victims, including Nicole Levy, whose best friend Sheila Williams was killed in the crush and who nearly died herself. Levy’s lawyer, Peter De Filippis, said his client, now 25, is still haunted by that night.
Benza will set a date to decide damages against CUNY. There are several suits pending against Combs and Myers in Manhattan Supreme Court.