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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
James Queally

Megan Thee Stallion takes the stand in Tory Lanez trial with support from demonstrators

LOS ANGELES — Megan Thee Stallion took the stand in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday morning, finally confronting Canadian rapper Tory Lanez more than two years after he allegedly shot her in Hollywood Hills.

Wearing a purple suit, the “Savage” and “WAP” hitmaker — whose real name is Megan Pete — walked into court around 11:15 a.m. and became emotional almost immediately after Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta asked her if she knew Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson.

“I just don’t feel good. ... I can’t believe I have to come in here and do this,” Pete, 27, said after Ta asked if she was nervous.

Peterson, 30, has been charged with assault with a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm and negligent discharge of a gun for shooting Pete in the feet in July 2020. If convicted as charged, he faces more than 22 years in prison.

Pete said Tuesday she was driving away from a party at Kylie Jenner’s house with Peterson, his bodyguard and Kelsey Harris, a longtime friend of Pete, when an argument erupted inside of their SUV on Nichols Canyon Road, authorities have said. Peterson became upset that Pete asked him to leave the party, she said Tuesday.

Then Peterson turned around and told Pete she needed “to stop lying” to Harris about their relationship.

Pete told the court that she and Peterson had become friends and bonded over the shared loss of their mothers in the months before the shooting. They also occasionally had a sexual relationship, which Harris learned for the first time inside that SUV, according to Pete.

Harris had a “crush” on Peterson, according to Pete, and after the revelation about their sex lives, the argument spiraled out of control. Peterson called both women “bitches and hoes,” Pete testified Tuesday, and then the two began bickering over the state of their musical careers.

Pete asked to be let out of the car. But as she walked away from the vehicle Peterson allegedly fired five shots at her and yelled “dance, bitch!” causing Pete to suffer wounds to her feet.

“I’m in shock. I’m scared. I hear the gun going off and I can’t believe he’s shooting at me,” Pete said on Tuesday.

The group drove away from the area, with a bleeding Pete trying to staunch the wound with towels in the backseat. Pete said Tuesday that Peterson immediately promised each woman $1 million if they did not tell police about the incident, claiming he was on probation for a prior weapons offense.

Peterson’s attorney, George Mgdesyan, has repeatedly said that his client was never on probation.

Minutes later, Los Angeles police officers stopped the car on Hollywood Boulevard. Dramatic police body camera footage shown in court displayed all four occupants of the car, including a limping, bloodied Pete, being ordered to the ground and detained in the street by officers.

Pete did not initially report the shooting. On Tuesday, Pete repeated her assertion that she did not feel comfortable talking to the LAPD, especially in the summer of 2020 in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“At the time, we are at the height of police brutality ... I felt like if I said this man has just shot me, they might shoot first and ask questions later,” Pete said. “I don’t feel safe in the car. I don’t feel safe with the police officers either.”

Pete also noted that “in the Black community, it’s not really acceptable to be cooperating with police officers.”

Weeks later, she publicly accused Peterson in an Instagram video of shooting her. Peterson has denied all wrongdoing and implied in a number of songs he has released since his arrest that the “Savage” rapper’s team “framed” him for the assault.

Mgdesyan has said the case is about “jealousy” and suggested the fight in the car was between a highly intoxicated Pete and her one-time close friend, Harris. While he has not flat out said Harris fired the weapon — which has been a popular theory among Peterson’s most ardent supporters — he has contended his client’s DNA was not found on the weapon used in the attack.

But prosecutors have presented a jailhouse phone call from Peterson apologizing for his behavior on the night of the shooting, admitting he was drunk and expressing concern Pete would “never, ever” speak to him again after what happened. At no point, however, does Peterson specifically admit to firing a gun.

On Tuesday, Pete said Peterson contacted her multiple times to apologize, including one call from a phone number she didn’t recognize when he described watching a video of her after the shooting where he could see “the pain in her eyes.”

“Why are you being weird? You know you shot me and now you’re watching me?” Pete asked on Tuesday.

While Harris and Pete are estranged, Harris is also expected to testify and corroborate a text message she sent shortly after the attack which read “Tory shot Meg,” according to Pete’s personal attorney, Alex Spiro.

The trial is expected to last until early next week, and it is unclear if Peterson will testify. Pete is scheduled to return to the stand Tuesday afternoon.

Peterson did not make eye contact with Pete when she entered the courtroom Tuesday but took copious notes as she spoke. He was flanked by at least a dozen supporters in the hallway outside the courtroom, including his young son, who was present while Pete testified.

A small group of demonstrators holding signs reading “I Stand With Megan” were standing near the Temple Street entrance to the courthouse, where Pete arrived shortly before 9 a.m. and entered the Hall of Justice.

Jaki Murillo, a youth mentor with the Young Women’s Freedom Center, said she felt the need to show up Tuesday because of what she sees as male hip-hop artists’ frustrating refusal to believe Pete. Last month, Drake released a song containing lyrics that many interpreted as casting doubt on Pete’s allegations.

“We’re here because a lot of Black and brown women are asked twice, not once,” when they make domestic violence allegations, Murillo said.

Murillo said she has been inspired by Pete’s decision to speak out against Peterson and press charges despite the perceived push back against her in the hip-hop industry.

“That’s why I respect her. She’s still going through with this after all that,” Murillo said. “She gives other girls hope to speak up.”

Pete also addressed the idea that the hip-hop industry tends to be dominated by men and that she feared reporting Peterson might actively harm her ascendant career.

“This whole situation in the industry is like a big boys club,” she testified. “Like I’m telling on one of y'all friends, now you’re all about to hate me.”

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