The murder and other charges brought against music executive Ahmed Chaka Zulu Obafemi have been dropped after Fulton County prosecutors concluded that he fatally shot a 23-year-old man in self-defense during a physical altercation outside his restaurant in 2022, WSB-TV reported.
Zulu, a longtime manager of rapper Ludacris, got into a fight with four other individuals at the parking lot of his Buckhead restaurant on June 26, 2022. He later opened fire during the altercation, fatally striking Artez Benton – a college graduate who was also involved in the fight.
“The Atlanta Police Department made an arrest on charges determined at a standard of probable cause, which is their duty in this and all cases The District Attorney’s office investigates cases to determine what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial…Our investigation of the facts and analysis of applicable law indicates that this is an appropriate resolution of this case based on the standard of proof required,” Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis, said in reference to their decision to drop the charges.
“Because the defendant is now involved in a pre-indictment diversion program, we will not comment further about the matter at this time.”
Zulu in September 2022 was initially arrested and charged with murder, aggravated assault, simple battery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. But his attorney, Gabe Banks, argued Zulu was defending himself when he opened fire during the fight. Surveillance footage the attorney released also showed four men physically assaulting Zulu before he opened fire.
Before the shooting, the footage shows Zulu and an individual identified as Tre’mon Robinson having a verbal altercation at the music executive’s restaurant parking lot. During the confrontation, another individual identified as Corey Crawford is seen taking something from a car. Zulu’s legal team said they believed Crawford had retrieved a gun, WSB-TV reported.
The confrontation between Zulu and Robinson later becomes physical, and Crawford, Benton, and another individual join the fight. The four men are seen punching, kicking, and stomping Zulu before the music executive’s female assistant steps in to try and help him. Robinson, however, punches her in the face.
Zulu later draws a gun after he stands up and fires at the group. After Benton is struck, Crawford also opens fire, with Zulu getting hit. Benton succumbed to his injuries while Zulu was taken to a hospital for treatment.
In the wake of the incident, Zulu’s lawyers claimed the men attacked the music executive after getting angry because they could not obtain VIP parking and a table at his restaurant, WSB-TV reported. The decision to drop the charges was welcomed by Banks on Wednesday.
“Mr. Chaka Zulu, a beloved son of Atlanta, is pleased with the outcome of the thorough investigation conducted by District Attorney Fani Willis and her team of lawyers and investigators. From the beginning of this case, Mr. Zulu was committed to a fair process. He fully believes that after a thoughtful examination of all the facts and evidence related to this matter, District Attorney Willis reached an appropriate and just decision,” Banks said.
“It is not lost on Mr. Zulu that there was a loss of life under extraordinary circumstances. However, it is now time for Mr. Zulu to put this difficult process behind him, and to focus on the support and nurturing of his family. Accordingly, we respectfully request privacy at this time, and that any inquiries be directed to the office of Gabe Banks, Esq.”
But an attorney for Benton’s family, Theresa Seals, said Zulu should be “held criminally responsible and he should have been formally charged for the death of their son.” “They still stand by that today as they did from the very beginning,” Seals added.
“It is a little surprising to them to kind of now hear that the next step is the diversion program,” she continued. “The (DA’s) office just gave them generalities of what could happen and not a definite program.”