Driver: Puff Daddy Was Packing Gun

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Minutes before he entered a Manhattan hip-hop club, Sean ``Puffy'' Combs stuffed a black handgun into the waistband of his pants, his driver testified Thursday.

Wardell Fenderson, 42, said Combs adjusted his shirt and pants after positioning the gun, and then ``continued to prepare for his night.''

It was the early morning hours of Dec. 27, 1999, when Combs; actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, his then-girlfriend; and rapper Jamal ``Shyne'' Barrow visited the Club New York just off Times Square. Fenderson was working as a driver for Combs.

Barrow is charged with attempted murder in the case for allegedly shooting three people at the club. Combs and his bodyguard, Anthony ``Wolf'' Jones, 34, are charged with gun possession. Combs is additionally charged with bribery, for allegedly offering Fenderson $50,000 to take the gun rap for him.

According to Fenderson, he was parked outside Combs' recording studio when the multimillionaire rap impresario climbed into the back seat of the Lincoln Navigator to go to the club. Fenderson said when he glanced over his shoulder, Combs was hefting the gun in his right hand.

``I thought, `What in God's name is he doing holding a gun?''' Fenderson testified. ``We made eye contact, but nothing was said. He went on about his business.''

Fenderson was again driving the Navigator, with Combs, Lopez and Jones inside, as they fled after the shootings. Fenderson said, Combs and Lopez were brought to the Navigator separately by bodyguards. Fenderson said he then drove on the sidewalk, around a police barricade, and sped north on Eighth Avenue.

``It was like something out of a movie — chaos, a panic situation,'' he testified.

``I overhear Ms. Lopez say, `Shyne busted off! Shyne busted off in the air!''' Fenderson testified.

``What did you take `busted off' to mean?'' Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos asked.

``That he fired a weapon,'' Fenderson replied.

In afternoon testimony, Fenderson detailed how Combs allegedly offered him money as they stood inside a Manhattan police precinct.

``I'm Puff Daddy, you know?'' Fenderson quoted Combs as saying in hushed tones. ``I can't take this gun (rap). I'll give you $50,000.''

According to Fenderson, Jones chimed in: ``Listen, dog, you don't have a record. You'll get probation. ... We can't let P (Combs) take the gun. You'll be part of the family.''

Combs then offered him a diamond pinkie ring — a gift from Lopez — as collateral for the promised $50,000, Fenderson said. The driver initially did tell police that the gun was his, but later recanted that statement.