The murder of Tupac Shakur in a drive-by shooting six years ago tomorrow remains unsolved by Las Vegas police. But after a year-long investigation, Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Philips says he knows who pulled the trigger. It was Orlando Anderson, Philips writes in Friday’s Times, naming a now-deceased Crips gang member long suspected but never charged with the murder. But Philips’ most explosive conclusion is that Anderson asked Tupac’s rap rival, the Notorious B.I.G., to pay $1 million for the hit, and that Biggie not only agreed but supplied the gun as well.
Philips writes that the killing was the culmination of a feud, not just between East Coast and West Coast rap factions, but between the Crips and Bloods gangs. According to Philips, Tupac’s label boss, Suge Knight, used Bloods as bodyguards for himself and his Death Row artists, while Biggie Smalls and other artists on Sean Combs’ Bad Boy label hired Crips for security (an allegation P. Diddy has denied).
On Sept. 7, 1996, after a Mike Tyson fight, Shakur and Knight encountered Anderson in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel. Anderson and other Crips had allegedly recently beaten and robbed one of Shakur’s bodyguards. According to the New York Times, Shakur, Knight, and their bodyguards attacked Anderson in a brief melee that, caught on tape, would later send Knight to prison for several years for violating his parole.
According to Philips, Anderson and the Crips retaliated by plotting an ambush and decided to get Christopher ”Biggie Smalls” Wallace to pay for it. Wallace was allegedly staying at the hotel under an assumed name, and when Anderson and his crew met with the rapper, he not only agreed to pay $1 million but also gave Anderson his Glock. Though no previous account of Tupac’s killing has placed Biggie in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, Philips writes that he spoke to several unnamed Crips, never before interviewed by police, who say they attended the meeting.
Later that night, a Cadillac pulled up alongside a BMW driven by Knight in which Shakur was a passenger. A gunman opened fire, hitting Tupac four times in the chest. He died six days later. Knight claims he took a shot to the head himself, though his wound is not confirmed by hospital or police records, according to MTV.com.
Smalls, of course, was also killed in his car six months later in Los Angeles, another murder that has never been solved. Before he died, he denied involvement in his rival’s death. A year later, Anderson was shot at a Los Angeles car wash, in an incident assumed to be unreleated to either rapper’s murder.
Philips’ account contradicts a theory of the crime espoused by author Randall Sullivan in his recent book ”LAbyrinth,” which claims that Knight was behind both rappers’ killings. (His alleged beef against Tupac: The rapper was edging toward leaving Death Row, at a time when Knight supposedly owed him millions in royalties.) Knight has denied involvment in either death.
Sullivan says the Smalls killing remains unsolved because it involves rogue L.A. cops who worked security for Knight, and the department didn’t want the embarrassment at a time when it was already rocked by the Ramparts corruption scandal. Philips is expected to address the police failures to solve either crime in the second part of his report, which the Times is to publish Saturday.