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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
James Queally and Jonah Valdez

Tory Lanez found guilty in shooting of Megan Thee Stallion

LOS ANGELES — Daystar Peterson, a Canadian rapper who performs as Tory Lanez, was convicted Friday of assault and weapons offenses for shooting rap star Megan Thee Stallion after an alcohol-fueled party in 2020.

Peterson faces more than 20 years in prison for the five gun shots jurors concluded he fired at the feet of Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete, in a fit of rage. The shooting followed an argument inside Peterson’s SUV while the pair were driving with others in the Hollywood Hills.

Jurors reached their decision after less than two days of deliberations following a two-week trial.

Pete took the stand last week and said Peterson shot her after an argument erupted in his vehicle after they left a party at the home of Kylie Jenner, a member of the Kardashian clan. She said the altercation began after Peterson revealed to her best friend, Kelsey Harris, that the two rappers had begun seeing each other. Harris, who was also in the car, had previously been involved with Peterson and became angry that Pete had “back-doored” her, she said.

Pete said she eventually demanded to be let out of the vehicle on Nichols Canyon Road in the Hollywood Hills. As she walked away, she claimed, Peterson shouted, “Dance, b----!” before firing a volley of gunshots at her, although no other witnesses have corroborated that statement. Pete was struck several times in the feet and had to undergo surgery to remove bullet fragments.

There were only four people in the SUV when the gunfire erupted: Pete, Harris, Peterson and his bodyguard, Jaquan Smith. Smith has not taken the stand, leaving Harris as the witness with the best view of the incident to testify in the case. But prosecutors have heard two wildly different stories from Harris, Pete’s former best friend who fell out with the hit-maker after the shooting.

In court last week, Harris refused to testify until she was granted immunity by prosecutors. On the stand, she constantly deflected questions and asked to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Often chalking up her fuzzy memory to a heavy night of drinking at Jenner’s party, Harris wouldn’t say who shot Pete or answer questions about claims that Peterson offered both women $1 million not to report the incident to police — even though she had previously sent a text message the night of the altercation that read, “Tory shot Meg.”

The day after Harris left the stand, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford allowed prosecutors to play the entirety of a recorded interview Harris gave to them in September. On the tape, she clearly identifies Peterson as the gunman and gives a play-by-play account of the night of the shooting, telling the story with minimal prompting from prosecutors.

“You start hearing gunshots ... I look up maybe at the second or third gunshot ... you see Tory ... he’s leaning over, the door’s open,” Harris said on the tape. “He’s shooting over the top of the door, the right front passenger side.”

Peterson has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing and pleaded innocent to charges of assault, illegal weapons possession and negligent discharge of a firearm prosecutors filed against him.

In court, his lead defense counsel, George Mgdesyan, has tried to paint Harris as the shooter, arguing that she snapped after learning her best friend was seeing Peterson. A forensic analysis of the gun used in the shooting showed Peterson’s DNA was not found on the weapon’s magazine, and all tests on the firearm itself were inconclusive.

An LAPD criminalist testified that there were as many as four people’s DNA on both the weapon and magazine, but they could not prove Peterson touched the gun. Both Harris and Peterson tested positive for gunshot residue, but people can test positive if they have been near someone who fires a gun.

Mgdesyan also has sought to attack the reliability of the police investigation into the case, repeatedly asking why officers did not collect a DNA sample from Harris at the time. None of the police witnesses in the case have provided an answer.

The lead detective, Ryan Stogner, was placed on administrative leave this year after he became the subject of domestic violence allegations during a contentious divorce, records show. While a criminal case against Stogner was quickly rejected by the district attorney’s office, Mgdesyan has repeatedly tried to paint him as the architect of a bungled investigation.

On Tuesday, Mgdesyan called a witness he said could identify Harris as the shooter. But the man, a resident of Nichols Canyon Road named Sean Kelly, said he “never saw a gun” that night, only muzzle flashes coming from a woman.

During a rambling, confused hour on the stand, Kelly said he believed he “saw the girl shoot first,” but later said he saw only muzzle flashes and no firearm and that the “flashes” came from Peterson. Audio of the incident played by prosecutors in court depicted three rapid gunshots, a pause and then two more.

Much like Harris’ testimony, there were discrepancies between what Kelly initially told police and Mgdesyan and what he said on the stand. When he first called 911, Kelly made no mention of a female shooter, according to a transcript referenced in court by Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott, though Mgdesyan later got a police investigator to acknowledge he never asked Kelly for a description of the shooter either. Kelly also admitted he previously had told a defense investigator he saw Peterson wrestling a gun away from “a woman,” presumably Harris, but he was less clear on that point on the stand Tuesday.

Leading up to the verdict, jurors paid special attention to Kelly’s accounts of the shooting. The jury asked the court to read back Kelly’s full testimony Thursday, the first day of deliberations.

The case has reignited discussions about misogyny in the male-dominated hip-hop industry, which Pete upended with her blistering discography of songs that often depict women wielding power over men. Peterson released an entire album in 2020 largely dedicated to denying Pete’s account of the shooting and proclaiming his innocence, and a recent Drake song also contained lyrics casting similar doubt.

As she testified, the normally swaggering voice behind “WAP” and “Hot Girl Summer” often wavered, and Pete opened up about how she has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of the shooting.

“This whole story has not been about the shooting. It’s only been about who I been having sex with,” she said. “When people talk about Megan Thee Stallion getting shot, all the headlines are ‘Megan Thee Stallion is on trial,’ and I’m not on trial!”

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