Biggie's family and friends come to his defense. Countering the Los Angeles Times report fingering the late rapper in Tupac Shakur's murder, supporters deny he was in Las Vegas or otherwise involved in the killing

By Gary Susman
September 09, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Notorious B.I.G.: Monique Bunn / Retna

Last weekend’s Los Angeles Times story that accuses the Notorious B.I.G. of having had a role in the 1996 killing of rival Tupac Shakur has angered not only Biggie’s family but also his friends and others in the hip-hop community, who deny that he was present in Las Vegas during the shooting or had any other role in Tupac’s death. In fact, the family of Christopher ”Biggie Smalls” Wallace, who was slain six months after Shakur in a similarly unsolved case, is contemplating a lawsuit against the paper.

The Wallace family issued a statement, saying ”’We are outraged at the false and damaging statements” of what the family called the Times’ ”irresponsible journalism.” The Times, however, stood by its story, saying it had spoken to eyewitnesses from the Crips gang who claim to have seen Wallace in Las Vegas that night, registered at the MGM Grand hotel under a false name, and claimed to have been with him when he allegedly agreed to pay $1 million to Crips member Orlando Anderson to assassinate Shakur and gave Anderson the murder weapon. (Anderson had been assaulted by Tupac, Death Row Records chief Suge Knight, and Shakur’s Bloods-affiliated bodyguards hours before in the hotel lobby, in retaliation for Anderson’s alleged attack on a Bloods member weeks before.) ”Christopher Wallace was at his home in New Jersey on the night of Tupac Shakur’s murder, with friends who will continue to testify for his whereabouts since he is unable to defend himself,” the statement said. The Times responded that it had requested an interview with Wallace’s mother before publication, but she had declined to comment.

One friend who backed the family’s statement was Junior M.A.F.I.A. rapper Lil’ Cease. He told MTV News he and Biggie were in a New York recording studio that morning and were at Smalls’ home in New Jersey that night, watching on pay-per-view the Mike Tyson fight that had brought Tupac and his alleged killer to Vegas. Lil’ Cease also denied the article’s assertion that Biggie had used Crips as bodyguards.

Biggie’s wife and girlfriend both refuted the Times story. ”Our family continues to grieve over these and other lies perpetrated by irresponsible parties,” said widow Faith Evans, in a statement reported by MTV. Rapper Charli Baltimore, Smalls’ protege and girlfriend at the time of his death, told Launch.com: ”I know for a fact that that was not the situation and, you know, I think that it’s really sad that someone would say that a dead man was responsible for another dead man’s murder.”

Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, was more circumspect. Talking to MTV, her lawyer, Donald David, praised Times reporter Chuck Philips but said he still believed there was ”no evidence either one way or the other” linking Shakur’s rival rapper to the crime. ”Afeni still believes that the police have not done virtually anything to solve this murder, but she’s not going to actively pursue it unless there is something that comes out, which is more evidence than what we’ve seen to this point,” David said. ”Chuck Philips has been a strong friend on this. He’s done everything that could possibly be asked of him to try and get to the truth.”

Rap impresario Russell Simmons, issuing a statement on behalf of his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, also defended Wallace, asserting that he was home in New Jersey and not involved in Shakur’s killing. Simmons said the Times article ”does more to inflame passions and emotions than to clear the air with actual facts…. We need healing in our community. Only facts and the real truth will bring ultimate justice and peace.”

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