Rap musician Tupac Shakur is gunned down in Las Vegas.
Tupac Shakur was a prolific musician and actor. During his short career, he released four platinum albums and starred in six feature films.
Wendy Day, founder of Rap Coalition, knew Tupac well:
But despite his success, Tupac couldn’t resist the lure of the streets. He was arrested eight times between 1991 and 1995 and served an eight month prison term for rape.
In 1994, Tupac was shot five times and left for dead in the lobby of a New York recording studio. Amazingly, he survived. Given the reality of his criminal lifestyle, Tupac told friends that he never expected to reach his twenty-fifth birthday. His prediction was off by three months.
On the night of September 7, 1996, thousands of boxing fans flocked to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas for a match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon. Tupac Shakur was one of many celebrities in attendance that night. With him was Marion “Suge” Knight, the CEO of Tupac’s recording studio. The two high profile men were followed by an entourage of unarmed bodyguards and musicians. Tupac and Suge were also unarmed.
Cathy Scott, a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun who wrote a book about the murder, said it was strange for Tupac and his entourage to go out unarmed:
After the match, Tupac rode in Suge’s black BMW, headed to a Las Vegas club owned by Suge. Shortly after 11 PM, Tupac and Suge pulled up to an intersection and spoke with two unidentified women.
Cathy Scott described the events that followed:
Once the attackers fled, Suge drove off in the opposite direction. He stopped for help at a nearby casino. Tupac had suffered gunshot wounds in the chest, hip, and hand. Suge had escaped with only a bullet graze across his temple.
There were thousands of witnesses to the shooting but police say only one person came forward, Yafeu Fula, one of Tupac’s backup singers. He was riding in the car directly behind Suge and Tupac and told police he could identify the gunman. However, after a brief interview police sent Yafeu home.
As Tupac clung to life, fans gathered outside the Las Vegas hospital where he was being treated. On September 13th, just six days after the shooting, Tupac Shakur died from his gunshot wounds.
Initial reports said that Tupac was a victim of gang violence. Just three hours before the shooting, a hotel security camera at the MGM Grand recorded Tupac, Suge, and members of their entourage beating up an alleged member of the Los Angeles street gang, the South Side Crips. It has been rumored that Suge Knight was linked to a rival gang. Did this confrontation lead to Tupac’s murder?
The music video for Tupac’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” offered a clue to a second theory. In the months before his death, Tupac was at the center of a heated rivalry between the East coast rapper Biggie Smalls and Sean “Puffy” Combs, the CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment. In the music video, Tupac blames his East coast rivals for the 1994 attack that nearly killed him.
According to Wendy Day, the rivalry began after Tupac was shot five times in front of a New York recording studio:
To this day, no one has been arrested for that shooting.
Some suspect the murder was an inside job set up by someone close to Tupac. Several unanswered questions support this theory. How did the gunman know where Tupac would be? Why did Tupac seem to be the only target? Why weren’t his bodyguards armed at the time of the shooting? And why was no one willing to cooperate with police? Not even Tupac’s bodyguards?
Cathy Scott recalls speaking to Las Vegas homicide detectives shortly after the murder:
Yafeu Fula was the only witness who came forward, but he never had the opportunity to view a photo lineup of possible suspects. Two months after returning to his home in New Jersey, Yafeu was gunned down in the stairwell of a housing project. Was this a random act of violence or a premeditated murder to keep him from talking to the authorities?
There are many theories in this unsolved murder case. Now that the only eye-witness is dead, some believe Tupac’s killer may never be found.