Unsolved Murders: The Unsolved Murder of Tupac Shakur – Who Killed Tupac?
Tupac Shakur’s Murder
On Saturday, September 7th, 1996, American rapper / hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tupac was riding in a BMW driven by promoter Suge Knight. The pair was stopped at a traffic light at East Flamingo Road and Koval Lane at 11:15 p.m. when the shooting occurred. Shakur was hit four times by .40 caliber rounds fired from a Glock pistol. He was hit twice in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the thigh. Knight was struck in the head by bullet fragments, but sustained no direct shots and was able to drive nearly a mile away where they received assistance from police.
Paramedics took Shakur and Knight to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. It is reported that Shakur stated that he was dying while being carried into the emergency room. Tupac was placed on life-support machines and entered into a drug-induced coma. Knight was released from the hospital the following day, but Shakur, critically injured, remained. Shakur’s fiancée, Kidada Jones, visited him and reported that he regained consciousness. However, his injuries were extensive and he went into respiratory failure on Friday, September 13, 1996. His mother, Afeni Shakur, made the choice to stop medical treatment for her son and Tupac was officially pronounced dead from respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest at 4:03 p.m. on September 14, 1996.
Who was Tupac Shakur?
Tupac Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in East Harlem, New York City, New York on June 16, 1971. His parents became members of the Black Panther Party and renamed him in 1972. He was named after 18th century Peruvian revolutionary – Túpac Amaru II.
Shakur was talented from an early age and attended performing arts schools, where he performed in Shakespeare plays and the ballet castings like The Nutcracker. In 1988, he and his family moved to Marin City, California. This is where he got into the rap game, starting out as a roadie and backup dancer for the hip hop group “Digital Underground.”
In 1991, Shakur released his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, which generated much controversy but was also widely praised for “poetic qualities but also offered strong critiques of unjust social policies.” His second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z, was released in 1993 and his third album, Me Against The World was released in 1995. The latter album won the Best Rap Album at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards. His fourth album, All Eyez on Me, was released in February 1996 by Death Row Records.
Death Row Records
Death Row Records was founded in 1991 by Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, and The D.O.C. It was one of the first record labels to release West Coast style hip hop / rap music and the label was immediately successful. By 1995, however, things began to sour internally at the recording company. Suge Knight began bringing in more of his friends and gang members. This led to increased violence and turmoil for Dr. Dre, in particular, and he eventually left the label to form his own company.
During this same timeframe on the East Coast, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs had started Bad Boy Records. During “The Source Awards” in 1995, performers from Death Row were not well received during a performance, which led to Knight saying negative things about Combs. This in turn started a series of disagreements and bad blood songs between Death Row and Bad Boy Records, which was the beginning of the “East Coast” vs “West Coast” feud in the hip hop world.
Shakur and Snoop Dogg, under Suge Knight’s leadership, began openly insulting Bad Boy Records, The Notorious B.I.G. (AKA Christopher Wallace and Biggie Smalls), Puff Daddy (Sean Combs), and New York in general. Shakur also believed that Wallace and Combs had set him up when he was robbed and shot earlier in 1994. Snoop Dogg got in on the disagreement with the single “New York, New York,” which was quickly responded to by the East Coast rappers, Capone-N-Noreaga, Tragedy Khadafi, and Mobb Deep with their song “L.A., L.A.”
In June of 1996, Tupac Shakur released “Hit ‘Em Up” which was an attack on The Notorious B.I.G. In the song, Shakur claimed to have had sex with Faith Evans, the wife of Wallace. In reality, the problem was that Knight was angry at Combs for an incident that occurred in 1995 at the Platinum Club in Atlanta, Georgia which resulted in the death of Jake Robles, a friend and bodyguard of Knight’s. But the beef continued to play out amongst rappers and further fuel the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry.
The Night of Tupac’s Murder
Although there was much tension between the East Coast and the West Coast as well as Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records in general, there is no tangible evidence that Combs or Biggie had anything to do with Shakur’s murder. On that fateful night, Shakur and Knight had been at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada to watch a boxing match between Bruce Seldon and Mike Tyson. When the pair left the fight, a member of their entourage saw known Crips gang member Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson on the casino floor.
Tupac Shakur and Death Row members beating Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson.
When Shakur learned that Anderson was nearby, he found Anderson and punched him in the face. The punch knocked Orlando to the ground and other members of the record label began kicking and punching him as well. The brawl was video taped on hotel surveillance and hotel security eventually broke up the fight. The entire posse then decided to go to a club that Knight had rented for the evening. Tupac decided to ride with Suge to the club. As they were stopped at the traffic light on East Flamingo Rd, a car with two women pulled up on the left side and a white Cadillac pulled up on the right side. Shakur was standing up through the sunroof of the BMW to invite the women to the club when a shooter or shooters from the Cadillac began firing on the BMW with Knight and Shakur inside.
Police and Journalist Investigations – Who Really Killed Tupac Shakur?
Following the death of Shakur, there was considerable speculation that he was murdered due to the feud between Bad Boy Records and Death Row Records. A year after Shakur’s death, Las Vegas Homicide Sgt. Kevin Manning said that “Shakur’s murder may never be solved.” A member of Shakur’s group “Outlawz” has said that the police know what happened, but refuse to do anything about the murder and that “This is America. We found Bin Laden.” In 2017, Suge Knight is reported to have said that he might have been the target for the attack.
In 2002, L.A. Times reporter Chuck Phillips published a story “Who Killed Tupac Shakur?” in which he came to the conclusion that Shakur was probably killed by the “Southside Crips” and specifically Orlando Anderson, as retribution for the attack on him at the Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand.
Despite multiple eye witnesses to the shooting, there still remains a cloud of mystery around the case and, officially, the murder of Tupac Shakur goes unsolved.
Sources and further reading: