More than two years after a gunbattle on Seymour Avenue killed one member of an Atlanta rapper’s entourage and injured three others, two local brothers have been arrested and indicted for murder.
Details have finally emerged that patrons at an after-hours party became enraged with rapper Clifford Harris – who goes by the stage name T.I.– and his entourage, and that rage quickly escalated and erupted into violence.
Hosea Thomas, 34, of North College Hill, and Padron Thomas, 40, of East Price Hill, have been charged with murder and felonious assault for the death of Harris’ assistant and childhood friend, Philant Johnson, 26, and the wounding of three others in the entourage.
Harris, a Grammy Award winner, was in town on May 3, 2006 to perform at Bogarts in Corryville. The Thomas brothers were patrons at the rapper’s after-hours party at Club Ritz in Roselawn.
The gunbattle, said Cincinnati Homicide Detective Tim Gormly, erupted after a series of altercations that night between the alleged shooters and Harris’ entourage.
“T.I. and his group were in the VIP area,” Gormly said. “The suspects wanted to get in the VIP area and weren’t allowed to.” At one point, he said, one of the brothers was struck in the head with a bottle.
Shortly after the shooting, several witnesses told The Enquirer that anger also flared when some of those in the rapper’s entourage threw money from the stage. That event may have helped fuel the fire, Gormly said.
“It was just a total accumulation of everything that happened that night,” he said.
When Harris and his entourage left in two vans, they were followed by two SUVs. It wasn’t long before gunfire was exchanged from the moving vehicles on Seymour near I-75, killing Johnson and wounding the others. T.I. was slightly injured by flying glass.
Hosea Thomas, who has a criminal history that includes drug possession and trafficking convictions, was arrested in the 6900 block of Montgomery Road in Silverton and was booked into the Hamilton County Jail Wednesday morning without bond.
Padron Thomas, a listed sex offender, was previously convicted of robbery and rape. He is in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service for an unrelated drug case.
The Thomas brothers were each charged with murder and seven counts of felonious assault – one for each person inside the rapper’s vehicles. Hosea Thomas was also charged with having weapons despite a previous conviction and Padron Thomas was also charged with tampering with evidence.
Solving the case wasn’t easy, Gormly said. “We had trouble identifying the suspects due to (the shooting) happening in a moving car and there weren’t a whole lot of witnesses that saw the actual shooting.”
Eventually, little by little, the pieces came together, Gormly said, but even when detectives identified the Thomas brothers, months went by before there was sufficient evidence to charge them.
Since the shooting, Johnson’s family has called frequently looking for answers, Gormly said. Wednesday night, he finally had news that may bring closure to his mourning mother.
“A family that keeps in touch over two years – you know they really care for Philant,” Gormly said. “So yeah, it feels good to give them the news.”