According to a statement released last Wednesday (May 20) by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, an Atlanta man was formally charged last Wednesday (May 20) with the murder of rapper Dolla. In court, the man, identified as Aubrey Louise Berry, answered to two counts of assault with a firearm and one count of murder after he allegedly shot and killed Dolla (real name: Roderick Burton) at the Beverly Center Mall in Los Angeles.
In addition to shooting 21-year-old Burton, Berry allegedly fired at two other people who were also present at the fatal altercation. If convicted, Berry, who is currently being held on $5 million bail (raised from $1.1 million on Wednesday), faces a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the statement.
DOLLA’S MURDERER CLAIMS SELF-DEFENSE
A day later, Howard K. Price, the lawyer representing Dolla’s alleged murder (Aubry Berry) claims that his client feared for his life and was acting in self defense when he shot Dolla in the back, fatally piercing his heart.
Price said the two men had a previous fight at Platinum 21, a strip club in Atlanta, last month and happened to run into each other Monday (May 18) at P.F. Chang’s restaurant at the Beverly Center Mall where Price alleged that Dolla threatened Berry. Price says Berry left the restaurant after Monday’s incident and walked to the mall’s valet area to pick up his car when he noticed Dolla and two associates were following him. When he looked back, he thought he saw Dolla reaching for his waistband to pull out a weapon where Berry then opened fire.
“He felt his life was in danger because of the previous altercation and what this guy [Burton] is reputed to be, which is [a member of] the Crips [street gang] and the way he conducted himself in the bathroom and the way his crew approached him when they left the restaurant and followed him to the parking lot,” the lawyer said. He added that Burton and his associates threatened Berry in the restaurant — though he would not go into detail about the specific alleged threats — and that another verbal encounter followed in the parking lot.
Burton was unarmed at the time, but Price explained that if his client reasonably thought that his life was in danger, then he is not guilty of the murder charge. “If it is unreasonably held [that his life was in danger], but he truly thought that, then the case boils down to no worse than manslaughter,” he said. “He did not go there to look for anyone to kill. He was not there to encounter this guy, and this is the weirdest happenstance I’ve ever encountered in my career, because the videotape of what happened in the restaurant clearly shows my guy coming back from the bathroom and leaving his friends there to go get his car, and shows the other guys following him. If he was seeking to do anything, he wouldn’t have left first.”
Police claim that Berry shot Dolla several times. No one else was injured in the incident and the rapper died of his wounds a short time later at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The AJC also reported that the assault charges stem from Berry taking aim at Dolla’s cousin, Wilbert Robinson, and a friend and recording partner, Sidiq Abawi (a.k.a. DM Shabazz). Though Price claims that Dolla was a member of the Crips street gang, the rapper’s stepfather told the Atlanta paper that his stepson’s street persona was merely a character.
“To us he was just Roddy,” said George Viera. “When he was home, you couldn’t pry him away. Loved to play with his nieces and nephews, loved to play on the Wii.” The family, who are planning a funeral on Saturday for the rapper, said they learned of his murder from his longtime girlfriend, Crystal Jackson, who lives in Los Angeles and is a student at Clark Atlanta University. Dolla was reportedly planning a birthday party for Jackson in Los Angeles, where he was working on his debut album.
His stepfather said Dolla was shot in the back and that the bullet pierced his heart. In addition to finishing the album, Viera said Dolla was planning to go to theology school. “He was very interested in religion. People think rapper, they think hard, but he wasn’t that way,” said Viera.
Price refuted the claims about Dolla being shot in the back and described his client as an Atlanta resident who often visits Los Angeles for business and to see family, and who has a permit for his weapon in Georgia, and mistakenly believed he had the legal right to carry a concealed gun in Los Angeles. “He has a reason to have a gun there [in Atlanta],” Price said. “He has a permit. He has been victimized physically and there have been robberies on numerous previous occasions. He comes from a decent, wonderful family … his grandfather was the ex-assistant chief of police of Houston.” Price was not clear on why his client, who he described as a college graduate who has never been arrested before in his life, has repeatedly found himself in situations where a gun was necessary for protection. “He was not looking for trouble, I’m not sure how trouble finds him. He’s not a gang banger.”
Asked why his client fled after the shooting, Price said Berry panicked and, fearing that other gang members might come after him, “he called his sister and in a bad bit of judgment she told him to get out of town and he listened to her and went to the airport. He should have probably turned himself in.” Though Price said Berry typically carries his weapon in a lock box, when police approached him at LAX, he told them he was carrying the loaded gun on his person.
Jane Robinson, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, said the evidence for the murder charges was strong enough, “otherwise we wouldn’t have charged it,” she said. “We only charge what we believe we can prove.” Robinson added that her office asked for the unusually high bail because Berry has no ties to Los Angeles and is considered a flight risk. She said Berry is scheduled for arraignment on Friday, at which he will enter a plea in the case.
DOLLA’S FAMILY RESPONDS TO SELF-DEFENSE CLAIMS FROM DOLLA’S MURDERER
In response to alleged killer’s claim of self-defense, the family of slain rap artist Dolla have reached out to MTV News with the following statement:
“There are three victims in this case, none of which is Aubrey Berry,” the Burton family’s spokesperson, Dennis Byron, said Friday (May 22) in a statement, adding to MTV News that the family was upset by the claim. “His claim of self-defense is very colorful but the fact is that he traveled from Atlanta with a loaded firearm — for which he didn’t possess a carry permit for in the state of California — and then he assassinates Mr. Burton and attempts to shoot his cousin Will and his friend DJ Shabazz. Dolla was doing what he normally does, and that is to come to town and record in the studio and visit his family. He has been a recording artist for many years and being a member of any gang is as far-fetched as Mr. Berry’s claim of self-defense. Mr. Price is attempting to argue his client’s case in the media but the courtroom is where this matter will be dealt with.”
A viewing of Dolla’s body was held in Atlanta Friday (May 22) at the Murray Brother’s Funeral Home and a funeral service was subsequently held Saturday (May 23) at the Word of Faith Love Center, also in Atlanta. In keeping with the Janazah ceremony used by the Muslim faith to pay homage with the dead, several of Dolla’s friends and family were dressed in traditional white attire as they said their goodbyes to their beloved Roderick Anthony Burton, Jr., affectionately called “Buck” by his friends and family.
According to All Hip Hop, Dolla’s body was wrapped in a cream-colored sheet and the entire service was held in keeping with the fallen rapper’s wishes. His cousin Scrapp DeLeon, who is also a rapper, told news crews outside of the service that Dolla once told him that he did not fear death and when it came he wanted people to wear white and celebrate his life. Scrapp was with Dolla at the time of the shooting incident last Monday (May 18) at the Beverly Center Mall in Los Angeles.