Shakur shooting blamed on gang

Newspaper pieces together murder tale

September 07, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Tupac Shakur, a product of New York and Baltimore streets who was once the world's most famous rap star, has been dead six years, and still his murder remains officially unsolved. But a yearlong investigation by the Los Angeles Times suggests Shakur was killed by members of a California gang, just hours after the rapper attacked one of their own, in a hit paid for by Shakur's rival, Notorious B.I.G.

Investigators at the Times uncovered evidence that the shooting was carried out by a Compton, Calif., gang called the Southside Crips. Orlando Anderson, the Crip whom Shakur had attacked, fired the fatal shots. Las Vegas police discounted Anderson as a suspect and interviewed him only once, and then briefly. He was later killed in an unrelated gang shooting.

The murder weapon was supplied by New York rapper Notorious B.I.G., who agreed to pay the Crips $1 million for killing Shakur. Notorious B.I.G. and Shakur had been feuding for more than a year, exchanging insults on recordings and at award shows and concerts. B.I.G. was gunned down six months later in Los Angeles. That killing also remains unsolved.

Before they died, Notorious B.I.G. and Anderson denied any role in Shakur's death.

This account of what they and others did that night is based on police affidavits and court documents as well as interviews with investigators, witnesses and members of the Southside Crips who had never before discussed the killing outside the gang.

Fearing retribution, they agreed to be interviewed only if their names were not revealed.

Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in 1971 into a family of black revolutionaries and named after a martyred Incan warrior. Growing up in tough neighborhoods and homeless shelters in New York and Baltimore, he exhibited creative talent and was admitted to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied ballet, poetry, theater and literature.

Shakur's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, sparked a political firestorm. The lyrics were filled with vivid imagery of violence by and against police.

Despite his fame and stature in the entertainment industry, Shakur never put what he called the "thug life" behind him. During a 1993 concert in Michigan, he attacked a local rapper with a baseball bat and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In Los Angeles, he was convicted of assaulting a music video producer. In New York, a 19-year-old fan accused Shakur and three of his friends of sexually assaulting her.

While on trial in that case, the rapper was ambushed in a Manhattan recording studio, shot five times and robbed of his jewelry. Shakur later said Notorious B.I.G. and his associates were behind the attack.

Shakur was serving a 4 1/2 -year prison term on the sexual abuse charges when he was visited by Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records in Los Angeles. Knight offered to finance an appeal if Shakur would sign a recording contract with Death Row. The two struck a deal and Shakur was released from prison on a $1.4 million bond.

On Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur went to Las Vegas to attend a championship boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand Hotel. Shakur arrived around 8:30 p.m., accompanied by armed bodyguards from the Mob Piru Bloods, a Compton street gang whose members worked for Knight's Death Row Records. Shakur and Knight sat in the front row, smoking cigars, signing autographs and waving to fans.

After the fight, as they were walking through the hotel lobby, one of Shakur's bodyguards noticed a member of the rival Southside Crips lingering near a bank of elevators. The man was Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson, 21, who had recently helped beat and rob one of Shakur's bodyguards at a mall in Lakewood, Calif.

Shakur charged Anderson and began punching him. His bodyguards jumped in, pounding and kicking Anderson to the ground. Knight joined in, too - just before hotel security guards broke up the 30-second melee, which was captured by a security camera.

Shakur and his entourage stomped triumphantly across the casino floor on their way out of the hotel. A bruised and shaken Anderson gathered himself off the floor in front of dozens of startled onlookers. MGM security guards and Las Vegas police tried to persuade him to file a complaint against his assailants, but he declined.

Bruised and angry

Later, from his hotel, Anderson called other Crips to meet him at the Treasure Island hotel. By the time he arrived, more than a dozen gang members had gathered. The topic of discussion: Who gets to pull the trigger?

According to people who were present, the Crips decided to shoot Shakur after his performance later that night at Club 662, a nightspot just opened by Death Row Records. For the Crips, the beating of Anderson was an affront warranting swift and fatal retaliation. Still, they thought, why not make a little money while they were at it? They decided to ask Shakur's biggest enemy to pay for the hit.

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