Las Vegas Sun

October 6, 2022

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The death of Tupac Shakur one year later

A year has passed since rap and film star Tupac Shakur was shot to death near the Las Vegas Strip.

The murder has yet to be solved, and, according to investigators, it may never be.

"We're at a standstill," said Metro Police homicide Sgt. Kevin Manning, who is heading the investigation.

Still, detectives receive "information constantly" about the murder, he said.

The information, however, hasn't moved the case forward. In addition to bona fide tips, police have received many false tips from people claiming to know who did it.

Police say the case slowed early in the investigation as few new clues came in and witnesses clammed up. The murder weapon has not been found, and no one has fingered a suspect.

The Shakur slaying is one of the biggest murder cases in Las Vegas history.

The case attracted national media attention, and has been featured on television shows such as "America's Most Wanted," "Unsolved Mysteries," "Prime Time Live" and "Hard Copy."

Before his death, Shakur, 25, was a music icon for many who saw him as a voice for young people rebelling against their lot in life.

Since his death and the release of the critically acclaimed film "Gridlock'd" and his last album, "Don Killuminati -- The 7-Day Theory," he's been likened to a prince.

But he also was heavily criticized, before and after his death, for his violent lyrics and negative depictions of women.

Fateful night

On Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur and Death Row Records owner Marion "Suge" Knight were driving to a nightclub with an entourage behind them on East Flamingo Road. They were in town for the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon heavyweight championship boxing match. Tyson was to meet them later at Club 662, where Shakur and other rap artists were scheduled to perform.

They never made it.

A light-colored late-model Cadillac pulled up next to Knight's rented BMW 750 and a gunman in the back seat opened fire on the passenger side. Shakur was hit three times.

He died six days later at University Medical Center.

So the question remains: Who killed Tupac Shakur? Was it as simple as jealousy over women and money? Was it related to street gangs, namely the Crips and Bloods? Was it because of an East Coast-West Coast rap music rivalry?

On Nov. 13, two months after Shakur's death, 19-year-old Yafeu Fula, a backup singer in Shakur's group Outlaw Immortalz, was shot gangland-style in the hallway of a housing project in Orange, N.J. The 19-year-old was part of Shakur's entourage in Las Vegas and was a passenger in a car directly behind Shakur's when Shakur was shot.

Police say Fula's murder was unrelated to the Shakur case, even though Fula was the only witness who told Metro investigators that night that he could possibly identify Shakur's assailant. Fula was killed before police could question him at length.

Then five months later, on March 9, Christopher Wallace, who also went by the name Biggie Smalls and performed under the name The Notorious B.I.G., was killed in Los Angeles in a shooting similar to Shakur's.

There was bad blood between the rappers. Wallace, on the East Coast, and Shakur, on the West Coast, had been involved in what has been termed a "bi-coastal rivalry" about who was the best rapper. Wallace, like Shakur, was a platinum-selling recording artist.

Metro's Manning said at the time of Wallace's death that it resembled "about 90 percent of drive-by shootings."

The 24-year-old drug dealer-turned-rap artist was killed as he sat in the passenger seat of his GMC Suburban while leaving a crowded party following the 11th annual Soul Train Music Awards.

Los Angeles Police have yet to solve Smalls' murder.

Lawsuits galore

Shakur's estate has been hit with a slew of lawsuits since his death. And his mother, Afeni Shakur, has been fighting to gain some control and benefit from his record sales as well as from as-yet-unreleased records. Afeni Shakur filed a suit against Death Row Records and its owner and chief executive officer, Marion "Suge" Knight.

Her New York attorney, Richard Fischbein, said he was close to reaching a settlement that would give his client a share of Shakur's earnings.

In another suit, Jacquelyn McNealey, now a paraplegic after being shot during one of Shakur's concerts, was awarded an undisclosed judgment in November against the late rapper's estate. She claimed Shakur "taunted and challenged" rival gang members in the audience, which caused a frenzy ending in her being shot, the lawsuit alleges.

And in yet another legal action, C. Delores Tucker, who in 1994 formed an anti-rap campaign with former U.S. drug czar William Bennett and is mentioned derogatorily in one of Shakur's songs, filed a lawsuit for damages against Shakur's estate. She claimed that her sex life with her husband was adversely affected because of some of Shakur's lyrics.

The latest suit was filed by Shakur's estranged father, Billy Garland of New Jersey. He's trying to share control of the estate with Afeni Shakur, even though he left the family when Shakur was 4 and remained absent until visiting Shakur in 1994 at a New York hospital.

Estimates of Shakur's worth vary because Death Row Records, the label under which Shakur recorded his last two albums, has claimed that Shakur was given hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry, cars, homes and cash that have been deducted from his platinum-selling records. Death Row Records wants millions of dollars in reimbursement it claims was advanced to Shakur.

The 32-year-old Knight has been imprisoned since November for violating a 1995 parole. He was sentenced to nine years in the California state prison system. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge said Knight violated his probation by taking part in a fight at the MGM Grand hotel-casino on Sept. 7 following the Tyson-Seldon bout. About three hours later, Shakur was shot and Knight was grazed in the drive-by shooting on East Flamingo Road.

Police later identified the person beaten in the fight as Orlando Anderson of Compton, Calif. He was held for questioning by Compton and Las Vegas police, but later released. He has contended, through his attorney Edi O. Faal, that he had nothing to do with Shakur's killing.

Knight's downfall

Since the Shakur murder, more information has been learned about Knight's activities in Las Vegas, including a 1987 arrest at the Rancho Sahara Apartments at 1655 E. Sahara Ave., where Knight lived at the time. He was arrested on charges of attempted murder and grand larceny on Halloween night after Knight shot a man in the wrist and leg during an argument. Knight pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

On Nov. 3, 1989, Knight and Sharitha Lee Golden were married in Las Vegas.

Then, on June 6, 1990, Knight was charged with assault after he broke a man's jaw outside a house in West Las Vegas. Knight later pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon.

Knight had attended UNLV and played on the Rebel football team in 1985 and 1986 but dropped out shortly before graduation, according to his teammates.

In May, several months after his parole violation conviction, Knight was transferred to the California Men's Colony East in San Luis Obispo, where he is serving out his nine-year sentence.

Since Knight's incarceration, his now-estranged wife, Sharitha Knight, has been taking care of the day-to-day operations of Death Row Records.