Tupac Shakur Murder Investigation: One Year Later, Still No Arrests

Tupac Shakur Murder Investigation

One Year Later, Still No Arrests

By Bryan Robinson
Associate Editor, Court TV Online

No leads, no suspects, no arrests. One year after rap artist Tupac Shakur died from gunshot wounds suffered during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, his murder remains unsolved.

“The latest developments [in this case] are that there are no developments,” said Sgt. Kevin Manning, who is leading the investigation for the Las Vegas Metro Police. “There is nothing going on with this case. No suspects. Nothing.” Tupac Sshakur

Since his death, there have been many rumors about why Shakur was murdered. One of the most prevalent was that Shakur was a victim of an ongoing war between two Los Angeles-based gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. Shakur associated with several members of the Bloods, and his boss and mentor at Death Row Records, Marion “Suge” Knight, also had ties to the Bloods. Another theory was that Shakur died as a result of a professional rivalry between the West Coast’s most prominent rap label, Death Row Records, and the East Coast’s most successful hip hop label, Bad Boy Entertainment. However, Las Vegas investigators say these theories have led nowhere.

A Lack of Witnesses or A Lax Investigation?

“There have been a lack of witnesses and a lack of evidence,” said Sgt. Manning. “Without those two things, it makes it [the investigation] kind of difficult.”

But some of Shakur’s friends and relatives say that the Las Vegas police department has purposely dragged its feet. “It was clear to me from day one that the Las Vegas police never had any intention of solving the case of my son’s murder,” Shakur’s mother, Afeni, told the May 1997 issue of Vibe magazine. These critics allege that the police were not fans of Tupac, who had been arrested eight times between 1991 and 1996 and whose lyrics sometimes promoted violence against police. Shakur had served eight months in a New York jail for sexual abuse in 1995 and had been arrested in 1993 for allegedly shooting two off-duty police officers in Atlanta. (These charges were later dropped because of lack of evidence.)

Because of his criminal record and association with gang members, critics say, Las Vegas police may see Tupac Shakur as nothing more than a famous gangster who died living the “Thug Life” he had tattoed on his stomach.

“I’ve been told by the police that who he [Shakur] was has nothing to do with the investigation,” said Cathy Scott, author of the recently published book, “The Killing of Tupac Shakur” and a reporter for The Las Vegas Sun. “One officer told me that ‘Just because Tupac was famous does not mean we’re going to assign more detectives than usual. Tupac was a young black man in America, and young black men get murdered.'”

However, Scott compared Shakur’s case to another young black man who also was murdered, Ennis Cosby, the son of Bill Cosby. “There was a whole police blitz on that case,” Scott said. “There were at least 20 cops and detectives searching for Ennis Cosby’s killer, and they got their man. [Mikhail Markashev, the man accused of killing Ennis Cosby, is scheduled to go on trial in the spring of 1998.] In Tupac’s case, there has been two detectives, one sergeant, and one criminologist assigned to the case.”

Ennis Cosby, an aspiring teacher, had a wholesome image and was the son of a beloved comedian who was once considered “America’s Dad” by fans of The Cosby Show. Shakur was a gangsta rapping renegade whose mother was a member of the Black Panthers. Both Cosby and Shakur were young black men killed in the prime of their lives. However, as suggested by Scott and other critics, the progress in these two murder investigations has differed because of Tupac Shakur’s reputation. Police may see Shakur’s murder as less tragic, less senseless, than Ennis Cosby’s murder.

The Las Vegas investigators say that nothing indicates that Shakur’s murder was gang-related. However, many critics say that the murder indeed was a gang shooting. (According to the Las Vegas police’s 1996 annual report on gangs in Clark County, 122 out of the 484 gang-related cases the police investigated were sent to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. This is a success rate of slightly better than 25 percent among gang-related cases for the Las Vegas Metro Police. Shakur’s murder may have been among the 75 percent of the gang-related cases that never made it to prosecution. But the Las Vegas police have been successful in solving general homicides. According to the most recent department statistics, Las Vegas police have solved 62 out of the 106 reported homicides in Clark County in 1997. This is a success rate of approximately 58 percent among general homicides.)

The Shooting

Tupac Shakur was shot four times in the chest as he rode in a car driven by Suge Knight on Sept. 7, 1996. He and Knight had attended a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon at Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Hotel and were on their way to a party at Knight’s Las Vegas club when the shooting occurred. Just before they left the MGM Grand, Shakur, Knight, and their entourage from Death Row Records were involved in a fist-fight with Orlando Anderson, a reputed member of Knight’s alleged rivals, the Crips. No one really knows how the altercation started, but it was captured on hotel security cameras. Shakur and Knight left after hotel security guards stopped the melee.

An entourage of about 10 vehicles with Death Row Record employees was following Knight’s car at the time of the shooting. Police say that despite all these witnesses, no one has admitted seeing the shooting or triggerman. Shakur died Sept. 13, 1996. And Knight, who was only grazed by the bullets, told ABC’s Primetime Live during an interview this year that he did not know who shot Shakur, and that even if he knew, he would not tell the police. Knight is currently serving a nine-year sentence for violating probation for his involvement in the altercation just before the shooting. (At the time of the incident, Knight was on probation for a variety of weapons and assault charges.)

Despite his ties to the Crips and his fight with Shakur, Orlando Anderson is not considered a suspect in Shakur’s murder by Las Vegas investigators. They claim that Anderson could not have shot Shakur because he was still being questioned at the MGM Grand about his melee with Shakur at the time of the shooting.

However, Los Angeles police familiar with Anderson’s alleged gang history reportedly consider him a suspect in Shakur’s murder. According to Cathy Scott, some officials within the Los Angeles Police Department feel that the Las Vegas police have blown the Tupac Shakur case and that Anderson is “their man.” Afeni Shakur also holds Anderson responsible for her son’s murder; she has filed a wrongful death suit against him. Anderson himself filed a suit on Sept. 8 against Shakur’s estate, seeking damages for assault and battery from the melee.

“I’m not a cop, and I’m not pretending to solve this murder, but it seems that some very unusual things have happened with this investigation,” said Scott. “For example, the crime scene was not secured for the first 20 minutes after the shooting. There were no helicopters to look after the area. Two witnesses who were riding in cars behind Tupac’s car, Frank Alexander and Rob Stein (who were associates of Shakur), have said that they have not even been called by the police. Meanwhile, the police have said that no one is coming forward with any information. It seems that both sides are waiting for the other to make the first move.”

The Victim of a “Gangsta” Code of Silence…and his Own Reputation?

Nonetheless, some people are not surprised by the lack of progress in Tupac Shakur’s murder investigation. “I don’t think any of his (Tupac’s) people at Death Row seem very motivated (to talk to the police about the murder),” said James Bernard, executive editor of XXL, a new magazine on hip hop. “After all, a lot of them are under federal investigation. Unfortunately, and this is not an excuse, but what happened to people like Tupac and Biggie Smalls (also known as Christopher Wallace, Tupac’s reported professional rival who also died during a drive-by shooting in March 1997) happens to black men all the time every day. The mindset is that you don’t go to the cops.”

In his life and death, Tupac Shakur has been a victim of both his reputation and this “gangsta” code of silence by his associates. Police say his entourage refuses to cooperate, showing more loyalty to a street code than to a slain friend. Critics of the investigation say the police see Shakur as dead criminal, a thug with a long arrest record who gained notoriety by rapping anti-police lyrics and glamorizing the gangsta lifestyle. The police, critics allege, feel absolutely no pressure to solve Tupac Shakur’s case.

Close friends of Tupac Shakur have said that during his short life, Shakur always emphasized that he wanted to stay true to the people he represented in his music. However, based on his music, Shakur was an enigma. He was rap’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who seemed to simultaneously represent the opposite ends of a spectrum. Sometimes, Shakur promoted compassion towards single black mothers and male responsibility towards the family in songs such as “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” However, at other times, he would call black women “bitches” and brag about the gangsta lifestyle in songs such as “2 of America’s Most Wanted” and “I Get Around.”

Sadly, it seems that in death, the Mr. Hyde part of Tupac Shakur has won. The mystery surrounding his murder appears to have the elements of a true gangsta death. A shower of bullets. A dead body. And a combination of an indifferent police department and uncooperative witnesses. No suspects. No arrests. Only the gangsta code of silence.

Bryan Robinson is an associate editor at Court TV Online.

Tupac Shakur’s Family Sues Death Row Records
The estate of Tupac Shakur is suing the head of Death Row Records, Marion “Suge” Knight, Death Row Records, and Shakur’s attorney, David Kenner, alleging that Death Row has not met its contractual obligations to Shakur. The suit includes allegations that Tupac was unfairly charged expenses such as child support payments for another Death Row Records rap artist, Nate Dogg. Here is the April 19, 1997 complaint.
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