Bobby Brown has gone far since leaving the housing project where he grew up: pop stardom, marriage to Whitney Houston, a performance at the White House.
But the streets of his old neighborhood nearly reclaimed him Thursday, when a shooting outside a run-down bar left a friend dead and Brown shaken but unscathed.
Brown was leaving the Biarritz Lounge shortly before 1 a.m. when shots fired from close range hit Steven Sealy in the face as he sat outside in Brown’s cream-colored Bentley, witnesses said.
Another dozen or so shots followed.
Witnesses said there was a gun battle, with people firing from both sides of the street.
Brown, 26, was unhurt but Sealy was shot several times and killed. Sealy, 31, had been engaged to marry one of Brown’s sisters.
Publicists for Brown and Houston said they had no comment.
Police believe a lone gunman fired two weapons at Sealy and refused to comment on witness accounts that there had been a shootout.
“The car was riddled with bullets,” fire Lt. Richard Quinlan said.
A gold medallion was missing from Sealy’s neck, leading police to believe robbery was the motive. Police Superintendent Jack Boyle said a man was being sought.
The bar is a block from the Orchard Park project where Brown lived as a boy. Brown had been in the club signing autographs.
“A man of that caliber in that rinky-dink club. … It don’t make sense to me,” said Jimmy Young, an emergency medical technician. “People are jealous. They envy him. He shouldn’t come around showing off.”
Brown’s hits include “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step.” He and Houston have a daughter, Bobbi.
Brown is no stranger to trouble. In August, he was cited for allegedly kicking a security guard at a California hotel.
In April, he and two companions were arrested and charged with beating a nightclub patron in Orlando, Fla. Authorities said Brown urinated in a police car and gouged four-letter words into the upholstery after his arrest.
No trial date has been set.
In 1993, police in Augusta, Ga., cited Brown for simulating a sex act with a female member of his group in front of an underage audience. He was arrested for a similar act in Columbus, Ga., in 1989.