Grant County Sheriff Mike Shay doesn't like hiphop shows, and hopes he never has to deal with one again. He has a good reason: In the wake of this year's KUBE Summer Jam, held in his jurisdiction at the House of Blues-owned Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington, he was left with a high-profile homicide to investigate--one that remains unsolved.

Shay told the Associated Press on Monday that the county "probably will ask" promoters of the annual hiphop extravaganza (this year's event featured LL Cool J and Nelly, among others) not to bring the show back to the scenic rural venue. Word of Shay's statement generated significant local media attention; KING5.com trumpeted the news on Monday, July 29, under the headline "Hip-hop may not be welcome back at Gorge." It remains an open question, however, whether Shay's desire will become reality.

The incident that set off the brouhaha was clearly an ugly one. More than 2,500 music fans spent Friday night, July 19, at the Gorge campsite. The next morning, 47-year-old Seattle resident Leonard Smaldino, off-duty from his job at Aramark, was selling trinkets to other campers when an unknown assailant opened fire, killing Smaldino with a shot to the upper torso and wounding two others.

Though the incident was serious, even Shay initially admitted on July 21 that, the shooting notwithstanding, this year's event was actually "less violent... than past years," with a total of 30 arrests (only a handful of which involved violence). And in fact, the shooting took place on the morning between the Summer Jam and that evening's skatepunk-oriented Warped Tour, raising the question of whether the incident even involved hiphop fans.

Though Shay would like to see the event moved elsewhere next year, he also concedes that trying to ban hiphop shows is likely to raise thorny First Amendment issues. Duh. Moreover, both KUBE and House of Blues have yet to respond to Shay's request; attempts to contact representatives of both organizations were unsuccessful.

sandeep@thestranger.com

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