The tragic loss of D12 rapper Proof
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The tragic loss of D12 rapper Proof

It has been 16 years since the tragic loss of the D12 rapper Deshaun Holton (aka Proof). The legendary rapper was shot three times, once in the head and twice in the chest, by Mario Etheridge after a fight broke out during a game of billiards at the CCC Club on the famous 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan. 

Allegedly, a drunken billiards game between Holton and Keith Bender turned into a heated dispute which escalated into a physical brawl. Etheridge, Bender’s cousin, then fired a warning shot into the air. The ensuing events were unclear due to conflicting accounts, but it is generally understood that Proof then shot Bender in the head. Bender was not instantly killed from the shot to the head but died a week later in hospital. In response to Holton’s actions, Etheridge shot him three times, killing him at the scene. 

The autopsy revealed that while there were no illicit drugs in his system, Holton had a blood alcohol content of 0.32, four times the legal limit for driving under the influence. Holton’s lawyer subsequently accused the police and the media of being “reckless” in their assumptions that Holton had fired the first shots without any hard evidence. Despite these protests, the court determined that Etheridge had been acting lawfully in defence of his cousin. However, he was prosecuted for carrying an illegal firearm and using it indoors. 

In the following weeks, eyewitness accounts gave contrasting accounts of the evening. Holton’s close friend, Reginald Moore, who had been at the club that evening, alleged in an interview with XXL Magazine that Holton hadn’t shot anybody. He claimed that after the fight broke out, between Bender and Holton, Mario Etheridge had fired warning shots to break them up. The shots panicked Holton and he pushed Etheridge out of the way, grabbed his gun and fired once into the air as a warning. Bender then attacked Holton from behind to get the gun back. Moore claimed that Etheridge then started firing toward both, intending to kill Holton but accidentally hit Bender in the head.

As a rap artist, Holton was known best as a member of Eminem’s collective, D12. In the aftermath of the shooting, Eminem spoke fondly about the memory of his close friend. “You don’t know where to begin when you lose somebody who’s been such a big part of your life for so long. Proof and I were brothers,” Eminem said. “He pushed me to become who I am. Without Proof’s guidance and encouragement there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady. Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop.”

Opting to remain out of the speculation surrounding the events at the CCC Club, Eminem focussed on Holton’s life. “Right now, there’s a lot of people focusing on the way he died,” Eminem said.” I want to remember the way he lived. Proof was funny, he was smart, he was charming. He inspired everyone around him. He can never, ever be replaced. He was, and always will be, my best friend.”

Listen to D12’s ‘My Band’ from the 2004 album D12 World, Proof’s last with the collective.