Chaka Zulu’s lawyers say he acted in self-defense

Music producer charged with murder after Buckhead brawl

Attorneys for Chaka Zulu say the Atlanta music executive was forced to defend himself the night a 23-year-old was shot to death during a fracas outside his Buckhead restaurant, and that he never should have been charged with murder.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Zulu’s attorneys said he feared for his life after being attacked June 26 and had every right to defend himself. They also called on Fulton County’s district attorney to drop the charges.

“He was attacked from behind, beaten and pummeled to the ground,” said attorney Gabe Banks, who was flanked by Zulu and more than a dozen of the producer’s relatives and supporters.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Zulu, whose full name is Ahmed Chaka Zulu Obafemi, is charged with murder, aggravated assault, simple battery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. His attorneys confirmed the validity of surveillance footage posted online purporting to show Zulu firing his gun during a scuffle with several people in the parking lot.

Authorities said Artez Benton, a 23-year-old DeKalb County native, died after being shot in the chest. Zulu was also shot that night, but he’s the only person charged so far, his lawyers said. He did not directly address the media, at the urging of his counsel.

His attorneys said Benton was among a group of men who came to the restaurant, APT 4B, but left quickly because they were denied access to the invitation-only evening.

Apparently they had paid for valet parking and demanded a refund when they came outside just 10 minutes later, Banks said.

“These men were upset they couldn’t get in and they came back out wanting their money back,” he said.

ExploreChaka Zulu murder charge: Arrest warrants, 911 calls released

Footage of the shooting obtained by TMZ appears to show one of the men confront Zulu, chest-bumping him as he walked outside to greet a guest. That confrontation quickly turned physical, and Zulu can be seen shoving the man before getting punched from behind and knocked to the ground by several other people.

Zulu’s attorneys said the first man reached for his waistband during the initial encounter and that the music producer, who works with Ludacris and others, was simply trying to “keep the peace.”

“Chaka, in an effort to de-escalate the situation told the man, ‘Don’t reach for that,’ on more than one occasion,” Banks said, adding that his client was then “viciously and violently attacked” by Benton and at least two others.

During the melee, Zulu’s assistant collapsed to the ground after one of the men appeared to punch her in the face. Bystanders tried to break up the fight, pushing the men away and giving Zulu the chance to get off the ground. Gunfire erupts soon after.

According to Zulu’s attorneys, the entire encounter lasted just 21 seconds.

“As he gets to his feet, the (men) are right there,” Banks said. “Chaka discharged his weapon lawfully and in self-defense.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Benton, a Druid Hills High School graduate who graduated with a business degree from Young Harris College and had launched a clothing line with friends called Cash Life Global, died of his injuries.

Benton’s father, Artis Benton, declined to discuss the specifics of the case Sunday.

“I’m sure that once we get to the bottom of this, justice will be served,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Benton spoke about his son in the days after his death.

“He did everything right,” Benton told the AJC after the shooting. “I never thought that this would be the end for him.”

Zulu, who was shot in the back, nearly died on his way to the hospital and required a blood transfusion, his sister Aiyisha Obafemi said Thursday. She and her brother’s defense team all note they don’t know who shot him.

“We are demanding justice,” Banks said during an interview on The Frank Ski Show with Nina Brown on KISS 104.1 FM Thursday morning, ahead of the news conference. “We are demanding a full investigation be completed. Something is definitely wrong here.”

Zulu’s supporters say it’s not lost on him that a young man was killed that night. But Banks maintains his client’s life was in danger.

“This was a man that was fighting for his life,” he said. “The individuals that participated in the beatdown — who kicked him and stomped him and punched him— are right there in his path as he is attempting to get to safety in the restaurant.”

Zulu turned himself in to police on Sept. 13 and was released from the Fulton County jail the same day, online records show.

ExploreCelebs, former Mayor Kasim Reed rally around Chaka Zulu after arrest on murder charge

Since the entertainment mogul’s arrest, a number of musicians and celebrities have come to his defense, including former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who wrote that he was looking forward to Zulu’s vindication.

In a statement, Atlanta police said detectives were able to establish probable cause for a murder charge following a two-month investigation in collaboration with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. The actions of the other people involved remain under investigation, the department said.