Rapper NBA YoungBoy refusing to cooperate with Miami-Dade cops in bystander killing

After rapper NBA YoungBoy was ambushed by gunfire outside a Sunny Isles Beach hotel last month, he and his record label offered to cover the cost of the funeral for an innocent bystander killed in the firefight.

But what Miami-Dade investigators really want is help from the rapper to identify the attackers — and so far, he’s refusing.

Homicide detectives recently visited YoungBoy in his native Louisiana, where he remains jailed on suspicion of violating probation in an unrelated case. The rapper, whose real name is Kentrell Gaulden, refused to speak to them, the Herald has learned.

A police spokesman declined to give details about the detectives’ visit to Baton Rouge last week. “We’re doing everything possible to find closure for the victim’s family,” said Miami-Dade Detective Lee Cowart, the spokesman.

Gaulden’s Louisiana lawyer confirmed that his client didn’t speak to detectives, but blamed a “mis-communication.”

James Manasseh said police didn’t give him enough time to try to convince Gaulden to speak to them. And the day of the interview, Manasseh said he had to send another lawyer in his place because of a sudden medical emergency with another member of his law firm.

“He’s willing to cooperate, but he’s scared. He’s a victim in this whole thing,” Manasseh told the Miami Herald.

NBA YoungBoy performs at the Lil’ WeezyAna Fest at Champions Square on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, in New Orleans. Amy Harris /Invision/AP

The 19-year-old hip-hop star from Baton Rouge had been in South Florida last month to perform at the Rolling Loud hip-hop festival in Miami Gardens. He was staying at the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach.

As he and his entourage prepared to leave the resort, someone in a black Cadillac Escalade drove past and opened fire. Members of Gaulden’s entourage, all with legally owned weapons, returned fire — and one of their stray bullets killed Mohamad Jradi, 43, a Hertz rental car employee who had just finished his shift across the street.

Investigators could not charge any of Gaulden’s entourage — they all claimed self-defense in firing wildly at the Escalade. Detectives are working to figure out who was in the Escalade, and the first gunman could still face a felony murder charge for Jradi’s death.

Manasseh confirmed Gaulden offered to pay for Jradi’s funeral, although the lawyer did not know if Gaulden actually did.

The wild gunfight sparked a chaotic scene in the upscale beachfront city in Northeast Miami-Dade, with tourists dashing for cover. The firefight left Gaulden’s girlfriend wounded with a shot to the shoulder. Three bystanders were also grazed: a Texas man, his girlfriend and her 5-year-old son.

Gaulden didn’t stick around to speak to Miami-Dade homicide detectives. He slipped away from the crime scene, managed to perform at Rolling Loud a few hours later and vanished. More than a week later, Gaulden resurfaced in Baton Rouge for a court hearing, and was promptly jailed.

Sunny Isles Beach police officers stand near a van where an individual was found shot to death after a shooting close by that reports say involved rapper NBA YoungBoy on May 12, 2019. Joe Raedle Getty Images

He’s on probation for a 2016 shooting of a rival in Baton Rouge. A judge there said she believed she’d seen Gaulden trash talking in a social-media post, which violated his probation.

Miami-Dade detectives have been probing Gaulden’s long history of feuds with rivals in Baton Rouge in an attempt to figure out who might have been in the Escalade.

Cowart, the Miami-Dade police spokesman, urged anyone with information to come forward.

“We need the community to step up,” Cowart said. “Don’t let this case grow cold.”

Anyone with information on the murder can call Miami-Dade Police’s homicide bureau at 305-471-2400, or Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-8477.