FARGO — Days after multiple women came forward on social media with sexual misconduct allegations against a local musician, that man was found dead over the weekend in rural South Dakota.
Law enforcement officials are not releasing details about Kipp Gabriel’s death, but say foul play is unlikely, said Barry Hillestad, sheriff of Roberts County in northeastern South Dakota. "The coroner is doing part of the investigation, and the matter is still under investigation," Hillestad said.
Last week, multiple women made sexual misconduct claims against Gabriel online. Gabriel’s obituary states he was 37 years old and died on Sunday, June 28.
Gabriel’s father, Ken Gabriel, who lives in Bismarck, said he could not comment much about his son’s death at this time.
“Right now we’ve talked to the police, and they want us to hold back for a bit because they’re doing a lot of investigating about the smut on Facebook or whatever that page is called,” Ken Gabriel said. “It was very, very intense stuff, and they want to go through the investigation first so they really advised us to hold back for a bit."
“I sorta know exactly what happened, pretty much a case of love, you know,” the father said.
Kipp Gabriel, known as “Kipp G” in the hip-hop scene, was a rapper with the Me and You Crew, as well as a music promoter. He was known as a happy, positive person who frequently performed at The Aquarium in downtown Fargo until around 2015.
When Forum News Service reached Kipp Gabriel by phone last week and asked him about the online allegations, he denied any wrongdoing, adding that he had been advised not to comment.
“I have heard a little bit about it, but it is absolutely not true. It is absolutely not true,” Kipp Gabriel said. “They (people posting comments) are girls that I have dated, and they have also called me and laughed into the phone .... It's like a game to them."
“It pains me because terrible things have been said,” Kipp Gabriel added. “I do respect women speaking their truth and I'm not trying to silence women, but in this situation, there's more context to it than just a string of anonymous posts.”
Ken Gabriel said he believes his son was handling the recent social media posts, but couldn't face the cost of losing his current relationship.
“He was the heart of our family. His relationship with people, his push for no drugs and no drinking, he was just totally against all that. It was all about love, and bad things making his relationship break up, and it was all about that. He couldn’t stand it. The texts he was getting, I think he could handle it. It was losing his girlfriend,” Ken Gabriel said.
Josie Danz, a Forum News Service contributing columnist whose family owns a gift shop in downtown Fargo, said she was one of the women who recently made an allegation against Kipp Gabriel online.
“I was one of the women who came forward and made a statement basically addressing the fact that he raped me back in 2008,” Danz said.
Despite her experience with Gabriel, Danz said his death was hard to hear about.
"Obviously, I have a difficult past with Kipp, but I also know he was also someone who brought a lot of joy and enthusiasm and talent and positivity to this community, and I think that’s why it’s hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around what’s happened in so short of a time," Danz said.
"I think a lot of people were really shocked about some of the stories that were coming from him. He was obviously a multi-dimensional person in good and bad ways,” Danz added.
Officials with the Fargo and Moorhead police departments said the departments have no records of reports related to allegations of sexual wrongdoing involving Kipp Gabriel.
Danz said she didn’t come forward in 2008 because: “I didn’t define it the way I would define it now. I felt a lot of shame and guilt and defined it as something else."
“What happened to me was over a decade ago, and there are people who say, ‘Well, women should have come forward, they should have filed charges.’ That’s really easy to say, but when you’re in that situation and you’re not even clear what’s happening to you or how to define it at the time that it happens, it’s really hard to be in the mindset of pressing charges,” Danz said.
“It’s a really complicated mix of emotions that a lot of people are trying to unpack right now. My heart is really heavy because I wish he had a chance to find some redemption for himself and for his victims. Sure, what happened to me was very, very painful, but I still think he deserved the chance to have a future and do good. It’s not the closure anyone wanted or deserved on any side of these experiences.”
Diane Miller, a rapper currently in Minneapolis, performed regularly with Kipp Gabriel. She said she didn’t want to be silent about the situation and posted on Facebook a “Trust Women” image, but also said the "cyberbullying" Kipp Gabriel faced may have been too much.
"I think it wasn't the women sharing their stories, it was the comments. I think it was just the unchecked contempt of people sharing and being reactionary," Miller said. "I think it's possible that cyberbullying went too far."
Miller said some of her favorite memories involve times she shared the stage with Kipp Gabriel.
“Kipp was my friend. Kipp was a hip-hop fanatic. His love for it was palpable," she said. "When you are a musician too and you’re a woman and you’re a rapper, there’s not a lot of other people who can share the experiences of being on stage and being a rapper.”
“This is a lot to process right now, and I’m sad and heartbroken. I’m grieving. I didn’t know the details, I knew that people had problems, maybe, but I didn’t know the extent of the harm. I had no idea. I wish that it was different, that our culture was a safe enough space for women to come forward,” Miller said.
Although she believes the women's stories, and knows the current system has to change, she said she lost a friend and the community lost a music star with Kipp Gabriel's passing.
“I wish that I could have saved his life. I wish that he was still here. I wish I could have helped him out of the darkness, because I believe the women and their stories. I 100% believe all their stories,” Miller said.
Forum News Service reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report.