Chuck Philips is
a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, he’s also the man
who shocked the hip-hop community and the world in September of 2002 with his
two-part investigative report on the murder of Tupac Shakur. The first part
of his piece introduced claims that had never previously been made public, namely
that the Notorious B.I.G. supplied a bounty and the murder weapon for the execution
of his then rival, Tupac Shakur.
For the first time since his piece was published, Chuck Philips offers new insight
into the alleged involvement of Biggie Smalls in Tupac’s murder and elaborates
on the half of his piece that was erroneously overlooked by us all. Read carefully!
You expressed to me previously your frustrations with the lack of focus placed
on the second part of your piece, so what I want to do is go through that part
of your piece and just give you quotes from the piece and have you expand on
each one for our readers. Alright, the first quote is: "Las Vegas police
were slow to grasp that the roots of the killing lay in a feud between rival
gangs in Compton, and were slow to act once they did realize it."
This was basically about MOB Piru Bloods and Southside Crips, and you know Tupac
was with some MOB Piru Bloods who beat up a Southside Crip member at unfortunately
for him a time when Las Vegas was full of Southside Crips. There were a lot
of Southside Crips there that night, and they retaliated. And if you go back
and read through some of the original press releases and watch some of the news
footage from then, the police did not think that the beating of Orlando Anderson
in the lobby of the MGM Hotel had anything to do with it.
killings are extremely difficult to solve because there is usually little evidence
and few witnesses are willing to talk. Shakur’s associates were particularly
unlikely to volunteer information."
I’ve done a lot of stories about gang killings and it is very difficult to get
people to talk because the people that really know about the killings usually
are in the gangs themselves, and/or have relatives in the gang, or live in the
neighborhood where the gang operates, and it is not a safe thing for these people
to talk. One of the biggest code violations in a gang is to snitch, to speak
to anybody about anything related to a crime. Even the Mothers and the Grandmothers,
the really sweet, church-going people are not fond of the police in these gang
neighborhoods. They feel the police will not help them, do not help them, to
prevent these crimes, and the police expect them to risk their lives to help
solve these crimes. And frequently the police don’t protect witnesses in these
cases. This crime was particularly difficult because the gang members who committed
it didn’t live in Las Vegas, most of them; the gang was based in Compton, California.
Vegas police worried that the Compton investigators were too close to the gangs
and their rap-industry patrons and might leak information."
At the time of the shooting the guy who ran the gang unit in Compton, Reggie
Wright Sr., who everyone I talked to said was one of the best gang detectives
there is, his son, Reggie Wright Jr., worked for Suge Knight. Reggie Wright
Jr. used to be a Compton cop, and he went and ran a security agency for Suge
Knight. So the police from Las Vegas were very apprehensive to take information
from or tell anything to the Compton police officers, because they thought Reggie
Wright Sr. was going to tell Reggie Wright Jr. and Reggie Wright Jr. was going
to tell Suge Knight. There were a lot of people involved in the investigation
who were very suspicious of Suge Knight because he wouldn’t talk. So there was
speculation, and there’s still speculation as you know, and other theories that
Suge Knight set this murder up. I don’t believe that to be true at all and my
sources said that that is not at all what happened.
after the shooting, the assailants returned to Compton, where they bragged to
their friends and girlfriends. The Compton gang unit was soon deluged with tips
implicating the Crips and "Baby Lane," Anderson’s gang nickname."
Well, you’ve read the affidavit right? http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/tupaclv1.html%20
The affidavit pretty much spells that out, how that went down. And I’ve interviewed
a lot of people, the officer who wrote it, and a number of other detectives
in that unit, as well as the police in Las Vegas, and they got calls in Las
Vegas about Baby Lane. They got calls from people in prison out here who heard
about the shooting the next day and the name Baby Lane from the Southside Crips
came up from them immediately. That happens a lot of times with gang killings,
they got even more tips because Tupac was such a huge star.
Vegas police had heard about the beating in the MGM Grand lobby and reviewed
a security videotape of it. But they did not know who Anderson was or why the
Yes, that’s true. They just didn’t know who it was. All of the sourcing, all
of the information surrounding this shooting lied in Compton, it didn’t lie
in Las Vegas. They would have to take special trips to go there.
week after the shooting, Compton gang investigators reviewed the videotape at
the request of Las Vegas police. They identified the beating victim as Anderson,
explained his gang affiliation and said the bodyguards seen flailing at him
were Bloods." "Las Vegas police stuck to their position that the beating
was irrelevant. (Sgt. Kevin) Manning told an interviewer, ‘It appears to be
just an individual who was walking through the MGM and got into an argument
with Tupac…He probably didn’t even know it was Tupac Shakur’"
I think they just didn’t understand the connection. They were getting calls
that this was a hit that came out of New York. They were inundated with phone
calls as to what the murder may have been about. They didn’t even know until
sometime after this how big of a star Tupac actually was, so to them he was
just another murder victim. And with these kind of cases, if you miss a certain
opportunity sometimes it never comes back to you. And in this case one of the
witnesses who said he would help them got shot and killed. Even though he may
not have been willing to testify, he still could have been shown the video to
see if he could identify Orlando as the shooter, they never showed him that
video. I think they just didn’t understand the value of the videotape, even
though they were told by the Compton police how important that was.
ruled Anderson out as a suspect, Las Vegas police did not try to track him down
for questioning or show his photograph to members of Shakur’s entourage…Police
also failed to retrieve additional security video that might have captured Anderson’s
movements after he was beaten."
I was told by various gang members that some of the people involved in this
shooting, their movements were captured on video cameras. You have to capture
that tape within a week if I remember correctly before they reuse the tapes.
Those tapes were available to the police. I don’t believe they would have captured
the actual shooting but there were cameras in the various hotels were they stayed,
they entered certain rooms, there were cameras in the hallways, and all of that
footage was lost.
their first moments on the scene, Las Vegas police unintentionally alienated
the witnesses most likely to be able to identify the rapper’s assailants."
They did that. According to the people I interviewed the police harassed them,
and these were people who didn’t do anything and were very upset that Tupac
was shot. And possibly they could be the only witnesses, everybody in those
cars, and it doesn’t help you any to throw those guys down on the ground and
mistreat them. And the police never apologized, they never tried to court or
woo back any of the people they did this to.
was one witness willing to help: a 19-year-old rapper named Yafeu "Kadafi"
Fula…Fula was among the dozen or so members of Shakur’s circle who remained
in Las Vegas after the shooting, keeping vigil at University Medical Center,
where Shakur was on life support. During that week, detectives made no attempt
to follow up with Fula."
That’s what I was told, and I believe that’s true. And the only time police
did interact with him there was a disturbance at the hospital because the police
were starting to hassle someone that the Outlawz knew, and they approached the
police car and the police turned on them, threw them all down and handcuffed
them. And if I’m not mistaken they busted Fula for weed, and they didn’t take
him into custody, but here you have a guy who has told you that he’ll help if
he can and how do you treat him, you throw him down on the ground and handcuff
on the morning of Oct. 2, 1996, Compton police, FBI agents and members of the
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department swept through Compton, arresting nearly
two dozen gang members…Orlando Anderson was among those sitting in the
Compton police lockup…Two Las Vegas detectives took part in the roundup
at the invitation of Compton police. One of them questioned Anderson for about
20 minutes…The visiting detectives brushed aside a suggestion that they
question the other gang members."
That’s based on interviews with everybody that was there that day. The Las Vegas
police claimed that they allowed Compton police to interview on their behalf,
some of the Compton cops said that wasn’t true, they told Vegas you’re allowed
to ask anything that you want. Some of the Compton police felt that the Vegas
detectives weren’t wholeheartedly interested in this case. The raid took place
to end the gang war that had broken out after Tupac’s shooting, but they also
felt that they could round up the people who were in the shooter’s car that
night, and they rounded up the people they believed were in that car and also
people who knew who was in that car, and Vegas never interviewed those people.
Las Vegas, one of Shakur’s bodyguards had gotten off a shot at the white Cadillac
as it fled. The word on the street in Compton was that the Crips brought the
car to the stereo shop to have the damage repaired…The Compton gang investigators
then canvassed every rental agency in the area…They found that a Carson
agency had rented such a car to a man with possible ties to the gang underground…They
took a photograph of the car and detailed their findings in a report…Compton
investigators say they gave this additional information to Las Vegas police.
Manning said his detectives never received it."
We ran a picture in the paper of what was believed to have been the car that
carried the people that killed Tupac. I don’t think Las Vegas police have ever
even looked at that car.
that covers the second part of your piece, but I do have just a few questions
that tie into the first part of your piece. First, did you see the December
2002 issue of Vibe magazine that ran a timeline countering your claim of the
Crips meeting up with Biggie before the shooting?
Yes I did. I completely disagree with that timeline. I believe what I reported
is what happened.
divulging names, can you tell me how many sources you had that implicated Biggie?
I don’t want to say how many I had, but I had more than one. I never write a
story with just one source. I believe that everything I wrote in the piece is
true. I know there is more to what happened than I wrote, and we’ll see what
happens in the end. The most critical misunderstanding of the story was that
there was never like a phone call that came from New York, it was never like
Biggie ever set that night for that to happen, it was a whole chain of circumstances
that depended on the thing that happened before it. It was all kind of spontaneous,
how one thing moved into the next. If Orlando hadn’t gotten beat up then the
Crips wouldn’t have jammed Biggie and whoever else was in the room, and then
had the opening not appeared on the street at the moment it happened it wouldn’t
have happened on that corner, it may have happened later that night or it may
have never happened. All I would see is these headlines, "Biggie ordered
this, blah, blah, blah," and it was more like Biggie got jacked for this
reason that I wanted to interview you, is to bring the readers who may have
dismissed your piece based on the Biggie stuff back to it to see all of the
information they missed regarding the investigation.
A lot of people don’t know about all of the work I’ve done covering this. This
story took almost two years to do. And prior to this story if you go back and
pull all of the stories written on Tupac and Biggie, my name is on a whole lot
of the stories that were breaking stories. My whole goal with all of the pieces
was to find out who did it, not to create a disturbance or to throw mud on anybody.
I was as shocked as anybody else when these were the things that came up.
ALLHIPHOP: Is there
any physical evidence that you can give to our readers that can substantiate
your sources claim that Biggie was in Vegas that night?
You have to realize that when you get information from sources you can endanger
those people’s lives by divulging that information. You have to protect that
information. A good reporter will never reveal anything that would lead anyone
to their source.
I believe you’ve already made this pretty obvious, but for the sake of clarity,
who do you believe murdered Tupac Shakur?
I believe the Southside Crips killed him.