The brother of the man arrested for the onstage assault of Dave Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl says he’s stunned by the incident – and he wants people to know his younger sibling has struggled with mental health issues and being unhoused.
Police say Isaiah Lee, 23, stormed the stage Tuesday night at the Netflix Is a Joke festival and tackled the comedian before security intervened. Lee had a replica gun that could eject a knife blade in his possession when he was arrested and later booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, authorities allege.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I just stomped a n—a backstage,” Chappelle joked after the incident, according to attendee videos posted online. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Lee’s brother Aaron Lee tells Rolling Stone that Isaiah has been in and out of shelters in Hollywood, California, for much of the last decade and has lots of friends in the transgender community. Still, Aaron doesn’t believe his brother would “lash out” as an act of activism against Chappelle, who recently drew ire from the LGBTQ community for jokes about trans people.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about Isaiah. He’s a performing artist who tries to stay as positive as possible. He does have a history of mental health issues. He does take medicine. Maybe he missed out on taking his prescription. But he’s not the type to just lash out. I don’t understand,” Aaron, 31, says.
The younger Lee has rapped under the name Noname Trapper and posted a song online two years ago titled “Dave Chappell.” His brother says Isaiah only picked that title to get search engine hits. Aaron says he never heard his brother express any ill will toward the comedian.
“That song wasn’t even about Dave Chappelle. It’s just that Dave Chappelle has a world-recognized name. People are searching Dave Chappelle all the time, so he hoped it would help him get more attention, more attraction, so people could find it,” Aaron says. “He doesn’t have any type of animosity toward him that I know about.”
Aaron says he hasn’t seen his brother recently and thought he was staying with another family member, “getting better.”
“He does take psych medicine, and that probably was a factor. And then maybe something triggered him acting like that. I don’t know,” he says. “He’s not the type of person to attack you for no reason. But if he’s not on his medication, and if he feels everyone is against him, maybe that’s it.”
As for speculation that the assault caught on video may have been tied to Chappelle’s controversial comments about the transgender community, Aaron was unsure. “He does have a connection with the transgender community,” Aaron tells Rolling Stone. “He used to stay at a shelter that helps transgender people. He’s been homeless since 11. He came out to California [from New York] after our grandmother died, and basically was in the streets getting help from different programs in Hollywood, like My Friend’s Place. He went to a lot of different organizations out there that help transgender people. Yeah, it could have definitely been a factor, but I really don’t know.”
“I don’t understand how this happened. He’s a gentleman. He is a kind, humble, nice person,” he adds. “Maybe if he was getting picked on, maybe he would defend himself. But I don’t understand why he would attack anybody. That doesn’t make any sense,” he says.
A BuzzFeed News reporter, Brianna Sacks, was at the show Tuesday night and tweeted a video purportedly showing Isaiah being loaded into an ambulance.
Just came out of the Hollywood Bowl where a man charged and tackled Dave Chapelle on stage and got his ass kicked by at least 10 people.
LAPD and LAFD are now loading him into an ambulance pic.twitter.com/7SXPe9e8az
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) May 4, 2022
Isaiah Lee remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $30,000 bail, online jail records show.