A Los Angeles Times investigation into the long-unsolved murder of Tupac Shakur concluded that his killer likely was a gang member who used a pistol provided by rival rapper the Notorious B.I.G. No ar

A Los Angeles Times investigation into the long-unsolved murder of Tupac Shakur concluded that his killer likely was a gang member who used a pistol provided by rival rapper the Notorious B.I.G. No arrests have been made in Shakur's death following the Sept. 7, 1996, shooting near the Las Vegas Strip.

The Times, which said it interviewed members of the Southside Crips who had never before spoken out about the killing, reported that the fatal shots were fired by a Crip named Orlando Anderson, whom Shakur and his bodyguards had beaten in a Las Vegas hotel hours before the shooting. The newspaper said B.I.G. had agreed to pay the gang $1 million to kill Shakur, his rival in a feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers.

The 24-year-old B.I.G, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was shot to death six months later in Los Angeles, a killing that also remains unsolved. Anderson, 21, of Compton, was killed in 1998 in an unrelated gang shooting. Both Anderson (who was named as a possible suspect in Randall Sullivan's recent book on the case, "LAbryinth") and Wallace had both denied involvement in Shakur's murder.

Las Vegas police interviewed Anderson once but said they could not build a case against him because witnesses in Shakur's entourage weren't cooperating. A police spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Shakur was riding in a car with Death Row Records co-founder Marion "Suge" Knight after attending a Mike Tyson fight when another car pulled alongside and someone inside opened fire.

According to the Times' reconstruction of the killing, based on police affidavits, court records, and interviews with witnesses and investigators, the Crips approached Wallace in hopes of making money from the killing after they had already decided to carry it out to avenge the beating.

Wallace and Shakur, once close friends, had been feuding for more than a year and had exchanged insults in recordings, at concerts, and awards shows. According to the Times, Shakur and his entourage had jumped Anderson to avenge an earlier beating of one of Shakur's bodyguards at a shopping mall. The assault was captured on a hotel security camera. Anderson declined to file a complaint. Instead, the Times said, he telephoned other Crips and set up a meeting at a hotel room where they decided to kill Shakur that night.

The gang then set up a meeting with B.I.G., who was in town, and asked for $1 million, according to people who said they were present. The newspaper said B.I.G. agreed on the condition a .40-caliber pistol he was carrying be used in the killing. He wanted the satisfaction of knowing his own gun fired the fatal bullets, the Times said.

Since the shooting, rumors about Shakur's killing have continued to spread among hip-hop fans. Some even contend that he faked his own death to escape the pressures of fame and troubles with the law.

Three days before his own murder on March 9, 1997, Wallace discussed his feud with Shakur in an interview with a San Francisco radio station. Asked whether he had a role in hShakur's death, Wallace said he "wasn't that powerful yet."

In response, Wallace's family today issued a statement branding the article "and related stories from other media outlets patently false," and describing such investigative exposes as "the most extreme examples of irresponsible journalism we've ever seen."

The family said "the L.A. Times article takes facts on record and juxtaposes them with hazy, un-attributed remarks which are not the result of any legitimate investigation, but rather are simply an effort to generate further confusion and publicity."

Sticking up for the late rapper, the statement specifically refuted several of the article's claims, saying, "Christopher Wallace had nothing to do with the death of Tupac Shakur. He wasn't in Las Vegas at the time of the crime, he did not arrange the murder, he didn't pay ... bounty money to anyone and he did not hand a gun to Orlando Anderson to be used in the hit on Tupac. It is all lies ... This false story is a disrespect to not only our family but the family of Tupac Shakur. Both men will have no peace as long as stories such as these continue to be written."


-- AP & Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.



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