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Originally published Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Man charged in slaying of hip-hop artist at Chop Suey

An 18-year-old Seattle man who police say fatally shot a hip-hop performer and wounded two others at a popular Capitol Hill nightclub last weekend was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Seattle Times staff reporter

An 18-year-old Seattle man who police say fatally shot a hip-hop performer and wounded two others at a popular Capitol Hill nightclub last weekend was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Carlos Bernardez is accused of killing 24-year-old Joseph Ryan, also known as 29-E, at Chop Suey early Sunday, according to charging papers filed in King County Superior Court. Also wounded was promoter Avery Turner, also known as Prezwell Jackson, and James Jones.

Roger La Branche, a 25-year-old Everett man who police say is connected with the case, was charged with drug possession. He is being held at the King County Jail on $500,000 bail.

King County prosecutors and Seattle police have not said what they believe was the motive for the shooting, but Jones told officers it stemmed from a long-standing dispute between him and La Branche, according to a document of probable cause prepared by Seattle police.

Jones told police that La Branche had recently been involved in a drive-by shooting at his apartment, court charging papers said. Jones was treated at Harborview Medical Center after the shooting and has since been released.

Bernardez, who is being held at the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, told police La Branche handed him a handgun and asked him to help him with a shooting, according to the charging papers.

According to the probable-cause document, Bernardez is alleged to have knocked at the club's back door and requested entry. After speaking to the three victims briefly, he opened fire and then fled, according to charging papers.

Jones told police he turned and ran down a hallway into the main portion of the club, where he claims he was confronted by La Branche. He told police La Branche pulled out a handgun and shot him, although La Branche was not charged Wednesday with a shooting.

La Branche then was restrained by Jones and several other witnesses until officers arrived and took him into custody, according to police.

After the shootings, police searched the rental car that La Branche drove to the club that night and found cocaine, Ecstasy, OxyContin and marijuana. Police also found a 9-mm handgun and more than $7,000 in cash, according to charging documents.

According to juvenile-court documents, Bernardez entered a deferred disposition to a charge of being a juvenile in possession of a firearm after a 2007 arrest in Seattle. King County prosecutors say that if he is convicted of the Chop Suey shootings, Bernardez faces up to 40 years in prison.

Bernardez and La Branche will be arraigned Jan. 21.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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