SEATTLE – Prosecutors in Washington state charged former NBA star Shawn Kemp on Friday with first-degree assault in a parking lot shooting last month over a stolen cellphone, saying that in a text message just before the shooting, Kemp wrote, “I’m about to shoot this (expletive).”
Kemp was arrested after the shooting outside the Tacoma Mall on March 8. No one was injured, and Kemp’s lawyers have insisted he returned fire in self defense after tracking and trying to retrieve a cellphone that had been stolen from him earlier that day.
In a written statement sent by defense attorney Tim Leary on Friday, Kemp's legal team said he would plead not guilty: “He is confident that once the jury hears from the witnesses and sees the evidence at trial, they will conclude that he was justified in defending himself that afternoon.”
A probable cause statement by Tacoma police, filed in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday, did not indicate Kemp was shot at. It said some of his statements were not corroborated by surveillance video, and that the text message sent just 13 minutes before he arrived at the mall showed his intent.
The document said Kemp told police that after being shot at he went back to his own vehicle, parked several spots away, to get his own gun. But the video showed that he was armed with the weapon when he approached the parked Toyota 4Runner where he had tracked his phone.
According to the statement, Kemp tracked his phone to a Toyota 4Runner sport-utility vehicle that was parked near a JCPenney department store. He parked his own car, a Porsche, several spots away, grabbed a handgun out of a backpack and approached the 4Runner, the statement said.
The statement said he fired three times into the Toyota and then threw his gun into some bushes. The driver of the 4Runner appeared to duck one of the shots and eventually drove off, it said. Only about five minutes elapsed from the time Kemp arrived until the time the 4Runner left.
The bullets that struck the 4Runner went through the front license plate mount, the front quarter panel toward the steering wheel, and through the front passenger door.
Kemp is due to be arraigned May 4.
Kemp, who has two licensed cannabis stores in Seattle, was a six-time NBA all-star and played for the Seattle SuperSonics from 1989 to 1997. He also played for Cleveland, Portland and Orlando.
Kemp debuted in the NBA during the 1989-90 season as a 20-year-old who had never played college basketball. He became known for his high-flying dunks.