As seen on Unsolved Mysteries on March 14, 1997
SYNOPSIS: On September 7, 1996 gunfire erupted along the famous Las Vegas strip, leaving rap music star Tupac Shakur mortally wounded. Today disturbing questions haunt the investigation. Why were Tupac's trusted bodyguards unarmed? Why did the killer seem to target only Shakur? Why was no one willing to talk?
On that fateful night, Las Vegas was operating at full capacity. Thousands had gathered for the Heavyweight Boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon, held at the world famous MGM Grand Hotel. Tupac Shakur was one of many celebrities who attended the fight. He was accompanied by Marion "Suge" Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, Shakur's recording company. At approximately 10:55 p.m., Tupac and Suge were in the car headed for Suge's dance club, followed by an entourage of musicians and bodyguards. Tupac, who normally was known to carry a weapon, as was Suge, was unarmed. According to reports, everyone felt safe. At 11:10 p.m. Tupac and Suge pulled up to an intersection and spoke to two unidentified women. Moments later, a car pulled up next to Tupac, who was sitting on the passenger side, and opened fire. As the attackers sped away, Suge Knight took off in the opposite direction. He finally stopped in front of a casino a mile away. Tupac Shakur was in critical condition, shot in the chest, in the hip, and in the hand. Suge Knight had escaped with a slight bullet graze in the temple.
Despite the presence of thousands of potential witnesses, police say only one person offered a glimmer of hope. Yafeu Fula, one of Tupac's backup singers was riding in the car directly behind Suge and Tupac. Yafeu reportedly told police that night that he could do a photo line-up and possibly identify the gunman. Authorities questioned him briefly, and then he went on his way. For six long days, fans gathered outside the Las Vegas hospital where Tupac clung to life. It was a losing battle. On the afternoon of September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died.
Initially, conventional wisdom had it that Tupac fell victim to a spontaneous burst of gang violence. Supporting that scenario was a videotape, recorded by a security camera at the MGM Grand, just three hours before the shooting. Members of Tupac's entourage can be seen in the lobby, engaged in a brutal scuffle. Both Suge Knight and Tupac were present. Moments later, Tupac, followed by Suge, can be seen hurrying through the casino. The target of the assault was 22 year-old Orlando Anderson, an alleged member of a Los Angeles street gang called the Southside Crips. It long had been rumored that Suge Knight is affiliated with a rival gang, the Compton Bloods. Was this confrontation the spark that led to Tupac's murder?
Some say one of Tupac's music videos offers a clue to a much different scenario. In the months preceding his death, Tupac was at the center of a heated dispute between east coast and west coast rap music factions. In a dramatized portion of the video, Tupac publicly blamed east coast artists Puffy Combs and Biggie Smalls for the 1994 attack outside a New York recording studio that nearly killed him. No one has ever been arrested in that shooting. Just weeks before his death, Tupac appeared on radio station KMEL in San Francisco, and candidly discussed his feelings towards his east coast rivals. Just last weekend, Biggie Smalls, AKA Notorious B.I.G. was himself gunned down, shortly after leaving a party in Los Angeles. At this time there is no known connection between his murder and Shakur's. In addition, there is no proof that the east coast/west coast rivalry had anything to do with Tupac's death, leading to intense speculation about a third possibility.
Perhaps the murder was an "inside" job, orchestrated by someone close to Tupac Shakur. This scenario is populated by unanswered questions. In the midst of the jam packed Las Vegas strip, how did the gunman know where Tupac would be? Why did he seem to target only Tupac? Why weren't Tupac's bodyguards armed at the time of the shooting, when they had been armed earlier in the evening? Why was no one, including the two unidentified women just a few feet from the shooting, willing to cooperate with the police? The only person who apparently did see something, Yafeu Fula, never had the opportunity to view a photo line-up of possible suspects. Within a week of the shooting, he returned to his home in New Jersey. Two months later, Fula was gunned down in the stairwell of a housing project. Was it a random act of violence? Or a premeditated murder to keep Fula from talking to authorities?
Authorities have always maintained that Fula was the only eyewitness willing to talk. However, in late February, two other members of Tupac's entourage claimed they told police from the beginning that they had a clear view of the shooter. They say police never asked them to view a photo line-up. The police say the men initially denied seeing the shooter, but plan to re-interview them as soon as possible. Ironically, in one of Tupac's final videos, he seemed to foretell his own violent demise. Cut down in a hail of gunfire by a shadowy, unknown assassin. Since his death, Tupac Shakur's popularity has skyrocketed. Six months after his murder, a movie soundtrack and an album, both posthumously released, were #1 and #2 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues Chart. Despite the impressive sales, Tupac's family has alleged that they have yet to receive a dime in royalties from Death Row Records. That company is currently the target of a Federal racketeering investigation. It's CEO, "Suge" Knight was recently found guilty of parole violation and ordered to serve nine years in prison.
If you have any information about the death of Tupac Shakur, please call the Unsolved Mysteries phone center at 1-800-876-5353.