07/31/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SIMPLY AN evening of hanging out in the city. On hiatus from her role in the popular Fox sitcom Living Single, rapper-actress Queen Latifah
, 25, and former bodyguard Shawn Moon, 22, hopped into her 1995 green BMW 740i and drove into New York City from New Jersey. The pair met up with pal Lynn Mayo, also 22, near Harlem's Apollo Theater and then invited some friends to follow them back to Latifah's Wayne, N.J., home. "It's the summer, it's 125th Street, and I should be able to hang out anywhere like all my other people," she would say later.
But just before 2 a.m. on July 16, their night on the town turned into a nightmare. The carful of friends who were following them got stuck in traffic. Latifah pulled over near a KFC restaurant on Harlem's busy 125th Street to wait. As the group sat parked, two men, one wielding a gun, walked up to the $75,000 BMW and shouted, "Get out or you're dead!" "We were smiling and joking, and the next thing you know, there's a gun in our face," said Latifah, whose rap lyrics often decry violence.
Although all three quickly got out of the car, Moon's size (a muscular 6'3", he was reportedly scheduled for a try-out with the New York Jets) may have unnerved the gunman, who shot him once in the chest before speeding from the scene with his partner in the BMW. "We gave them the car, then they shot Shawn," said Latifah, whose given name is Dana Owens. "It wasn't a 'No, I want to keep my car' situation. They shot him in cold blood."
While Mayo comforted Moon, Latifah flagged down a passing motorist to take Moon to Harlem Hospital, where he underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair liver and kidney damage. At press time, he was listed in stable condition.
Later that same Sunday, police reportedly received a phone call from Pablo Gomez of Far Rockaway, N.Y.; he had found the BMW parked in his backyard and said he suspected his nephew might have left it there. By the following day, police had arrested Gomez's nephew Ricardo Rodriguez and Rashien Fortune, both 18, on charges of attempted murder and robbery. Though shaken, Latifah picked the pair out of a police lineup and vowed to testify against them at a trial. Said the rapper: "I hope this is a lesson that we have to wake up and try to do something about the violence in our community."