Saturday, April 15, 2006

Officer cleared in pepper spraying of rapper's entourage

By Eric J.S. Townsend
Staff Writer, The News & Record

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Game over.

Six months after an off-duty Greensboro police officer used pepper spray against an entourage following rapper Jayceon Taylor, internal affairs detectives have cleared the patrolman of any wrongdoing.

Taylor, 26, known as "The Game" to fans, never returned police requests for an interview following an Oct. 28 disruption at Four Seasons Town Centre. The affray began when mall security asked him to remove a disguise he wore.

"The guy had a mask on and wasn't taking it off," Sgt. Levester Thomas said. "It goes downhill from that point."

Three police officers working an off-duty assignment at the mall called for backup as tensions flared, investigators said. Taylor was arrested for refusing to leave the mall despite security guard orders.

The officer under internal review, whose name has not been released by police because of state personnel privacy law, used the pepper spray as eight associates surrounded officers handcuffing Taylor.

It was deemed "reasonable," Thomas said of the reaction.

The rapper was scheduled to perform that night at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem as part of Winston-Salem State University's 2005 Homecoming. He is a protege of rapper 50 Cent.

Though the rapper criticized police to news crews at the jail, he never filed a complaint. Records show that a judge issued an order for his arrest after he missed a March 28 court date on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Taylor's Greensboro attorney, Andrew Clifford, could not be reached Thursday for comment. The cell phone number Taylor listed in court papers was not active. And the pepper spraying itself is available for anyone to watch.

A member of Taylor's entourage filmed the incident as it unfolded. The footage is included in a DVD for sale titled "Stop Snitchin/Stop Lyin." Its Web site gives a description of Taylor "being wrongfully arrested and brutalized by the police in North Carolina."

In the footage, which investigators played Thursday for the News & Record, Taylor can be seen on the floor of the mall and smiling for the camera.

At no point does he appear to actively struggle against police.

A citizen purchased the DVD and gave it to internal affairs, Cpl. Don Webb said. Pepper spray dotted the lens for much of the recording.

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