Wednesday, Nov. 13, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
A key witness Metro Police has been trying to interview since the fatal shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur has been murdered in New Jersey, homicide Sgt. Kevin Manning said today.
Yafeu Fula, 19, a member of Shakur's backup group, the Outlaws Immortalz, was shot to death Sunday, Manning said.
Police in Orange, N.J., notified Manning late Tuesday about the killing, he said.
Fula, who lived in Montclair, N.J., was shot once in the head and was found slumped in the third-floor hallway of an apartment building at 325 Mechanic St. early Sunday where he had been visiting a friend, Orange police said. Officers found Fula at 3:48 a.m. after receiving a report of a shooting.
Orange Police Capt. Richard Conte said the investigation was expected to end in an arrest "within days."
"We don't believe it's related at this time to the Shakur killing," he said. "The way the investigation is going, it's not going in that direction, but it's still under investigation."
Some of Fula's friends said they believed Fula was Shakur's half brother, The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., reported today. Orange police said they didn't know if the two were related.
"A lot of people have stated he was Tupac's cousin, he was his half-brother, that they had the same father," Orange Police Capt. Richard Conte said today. I know they had a working relationship. I doubt if there's a blood relationship with what we know at this time. Their mother's are close friends."
Fula toured with Outlaw Immortalz, formally named Thug Life, and appeared with Shakur on his album "All Eyez on Me."
Fula is shown with Shakur in an album photo insert standing on the stage of Club 662 in Las Vegas.
Shakur, 25, was gunned down Sept. 7 while he, associates and friends in a caravan of luxury cars headed to a benefit at Club 662, a private nightclub operated by Marion "Suge" Knight. Knight was driving the rented BMW in which Shakur was a passenger. Knight suffered a minor head wound. Shakur died six days later.
Fula was sitting with body guards in the car behind Tupac's when the shooting occurred, Manning said. The detective said he had been in touch with Fula's attorney since the shooting to return Fula to Las Vegas for a second interview. Detectives interviewed him briefly after the shooting.
Meanwhile, homicide has received new tips in Shakur's killing near the Strip after "America's Most Wanted" aired a segment about the incident.
The program, shown Saturday night on the Fox Network, prompted "a healthy amount of tips," said Lena Nozizwe, a correspondent with the program. Officials from the show forwarded those tips Tuesday to homicide investigators, Lt. Larry Spinosa said.
The first in the fall series of new shows, "America's Most Wanted Fights Back," aired Saturday night and featured the shooting of Shakur in Las Vegas. The program has resulted in the arrest of 423 criminals.
Spinosa said Tuesday that detectives were reviewing the new tips and "are following up on them, making phone calls."
To date, police have received sketchy details of the gunmen, described only as three to four black men in a white or light-colored late-model Cadillac that pulled alongside Shakur and Knight on Flamingo Road East. Tupac and his entourage were in town for the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight.