Tupac Shakur’s friends, Metro square off at UMC

September 10, 1996

Tupac Shakur’s friends, Metro square off at UMC

By Karen Zekan and Cathy Scott

Four friends of rapper Tupac Shakur, critically wounded in a weekend shooting, were detained and handcuffed outside University Medical Center for allegedly shoving Metro Police gang officers in what was called a “misunderstanding.”

Metro’s gang unit was patrolling outside the hospital Monday night out of concern for retaliation after the shooting that landed Shakur, 25, in the intensive care unit, said gang Sgt. Cindi West.

Shakur was shot Saturday night on East Flamingo Road while riding in a black BMW driven by Marion “Suge” Knight, president of the Los Angeles-based Death Row Records, which represents Shakur and rap artist Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Tensions escalated about 8 p.m. Monday when about 20 of Shakur’s friends rushed across the street from the trauma center’s lobby to a car whose driver police had stopped to talk to.

“We had pulled up to see how things were going. It was completely in a friendly mood,” West said. “One guy misunderstood and wouldn’t cooperate. The crowd came out not knowing what was going on and got in the way and were pushing some of the officers.”

A woman friend of Shakur was credited with helping police calm the group, and the four handcuffed men were eventually released. Two men were found with what police said were butts of marijuana cigarettes, but they weren’t arrested.

“We let them go because they are grieving,” West said. “Besides, it was such a small amount. These people are human. We detained them, hoping to get emotions calm and logic rolling. At first they wouldn’t listen, but after about 20 minutes, when we explained where we were coming from, they were very easy to get along with.”

West declined to discuss the possibility of a rival gang being fingered for pulling the trigger on Shakur.

Police believe the gunman intended to shoot Shakur and not Knight, 31, who is affiliated with the Bloods street gang from Compton, Calif.

“The gunfire hit the passenger and the passenger side,” homicide Sgt. Kevin Manning said at a news conference Monday. “I assume the passenger (Shakur) was the target.”

But because of Shakur’s condition, which was critical after he underwent three surgeries and the removal of his left lung, officers have not been able to question him.

Knight and Shakur had attended the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon heavyweight boxing bout at the MGM Grand hotel-casino before the shooting.

Knight and Shakur, followed by a caravan of cars, left the fight and drove to a house Knight owns in the southeast valley where several people changed clothes, police said. They were headed east on Flamingo Road and were stopped at Koval Lane when a gunman in a white Cadillac pulled alongside the BMW and opened fire. At least 13 rounds were fired.

Shakur was hit four times in the chest and lower abdomen. Knight was struck once with shrapnel and debris from the car and was admitted to UMC with a minor injury. He was released Sunday.

Homicide investigators have been in contact with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and plan to contact the New York Police Department to check out rumors of a possible East Coast-West Coast rap or gang rivalry, Manning said.

Police have yet to interview Knight. His attorney contacted detectives Monday and arranged to bring Knight in for an interview today, Manning said.

Two bodyguards were in Shakur’s entourage, but they were unable to provide police with a description of the getaway car or its passengers, Manning said.

“Two paid bodyguards watched from other cars, and they’ve been unable to enlighten us,” Manning said. “It amazes me, when we have professional bodyguards, and they can’t even give us an accurate description of the car.”

The Cadillac, with California or Nevada plates and three or four black men inside, sped south on Koval. Knight made a U-turn on Flamingo and, with two flat tires, headed for the Strip, where police stopped him at Harmon Avenue. Paramedics arrived and took the men to UMC.

With all the traffic on Flamingo that night, police are hoping witnesses will come forward.

“We have fewer leads in this particular incident than we have in a lot of other cases,” Manning said.

Several dozen people have been gathering off and on outside the hospital since the shooting, demonstrating hostility toward the media and pushing away the lens of a news photographer standing across the street from the trauma center.

A woman who identified herself only as the Shakur family’s spokeswoman condemned the media for putting “a negative spin on the news” about the recording star, who is a convicted felon.

Metro has asked anyone who may have seen the Cadillac or witnessed the shooting to call homicide at 229-3521 or Secret Witness at 385-5555.

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