On September 7th, 1996, Tupac Shakur had attended a boxing match between Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson with the head of Tupac’s recording studio, Death Row Records, Marion “Suge” Knight, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. On their way back, at about 11:15 p.m., Tupac and his producer, who was driving stopped at a red light. A white Cadillac pulled up alongside them and fired at Tupac, hitting him four times, twice in the chest and once in the arm and thigh. One of the bullets pierced Tupac’s right lung.
Knight who sustained minor injuries managed to drive away from the scene to where they were pulled over by a Bike Patrol who alerted the paramedics. They were taken to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. At the hospital, Tupac was heavily sedated, was placed on a life support machine while Knight was discharged the next day. Tupac was eventually put under a medically-induced coma after repeatedly trying to get out of bed.
A Death Row music video director, Gobi Rahimi visited Tupac at the hospital and reported that he received news from a Death Row marketing employee that the shooters had called the record label and threatened Tupac. However, the Las Vegas police claimed to be understaffed and could not chase the lead. It was up to Rahimi and members of Shakur’s group, Outlawz, to guard Tupac while he stayed in the hospital due to their fear that whoever shot Tupac might come back to finish the job.
On Friday, September 13, 1996, Tupac died of respiratory failure that led to cardiac arrest after the removal of his right lung. Doctors attempted to revive him, but could not stop the haemorrhaging. His mother decided to cease medical treatment and he was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m.
On determining who the shooter was, investigations showed that three hours before Tupac was assassinated, he was involved in a brawl with another gang member of the Southside Crips. A member of M.O.B. Pirus gang, Tupac’s gang, claimed he saw Orlando Anderson, a member of Crips at the MGM lobby after the fight that night. This places Orlando Anderson as the prime suspect in the shooting of Tupac as he could have followed the rapper for retaliation. Stories circulated that Orlando had bragged about shooting Tupac, a claim he later denied in an interview. Orlando was detained a month after the shooting but he was never charged with the shooting and eventually released.
One of Tupac’s entourage who witnessed the shooting claimed he could identify the shooters. The Las Vegas police however, failed to follow-up on yet another lead. The witness, rapper Yaki Kadafi, was murdered two months later. The police also failed to investigate another lead from a witness who spotted a white Cadillac similar to the car used by the assailant during the shooting.
Tupac’s rival and New York rapper Christopher Wallace (stage name Notorious B.I.G.), was said to have paid the Crips to kill Tupac and provide the gun that was used to kill him. Wallace denied this allegation and stated he was recording a song in a New York City recording studio the night Tupac was shot. He also was shot by an unknown assailant and died, on March 9, 1997, six months later. Detective Greg Kading, a former investigator in the murder of Christopher Wallace released a book in October alleging that Sean “Diddy” Combs commissioned Anderson’s uncle to kill Tupac and Knight for $1 million. In a recorded conversation with Kading, Anderson’s uncle claimed Anderson fired the shots that killed Tupac.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chuck Philips published an article in the Los Angeles Time titled “Who Killed Tupac Shakur?”. The article indicated that “the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier. Orlando Anderson, the Crip whom Shakur had attacked, fired the fatal shots. Las Vegas police interviewed Anderson only once as a possible suspect. He was later killed in an unrelated gang shooting.” Philips also criticized the mismanagement and shabby handling of the murder investigation by the Las Vegas police. His article stated that missteps of Las Vegas police were, firstly, “discounting the fight that occurred just hours before the shooting, in which Shakur was involved in beating Anderson in the MGM Grand lobby.” Secondly, “failing to follow up with a member of Shakur’s entourage who witnessed the shooting, who told Las Vegas police he could probably identify one or more of the assailants, but was killed before being interviewed.” And thirdly, “failing to follow up a lead from a witness who spotted a white Cadillac similar to the car from which the fatal shots were fired and in which the shooters escaped.
The fact that both Anderson and Wallace were killed within two years of Tupac’s death is one of the reasons why Tupac’s death remained one of the unsolved murders in the history of music. His death, circumstances surrounding it and different versions of stories and theories that circulated at the time shrouded the rapper’s death in a mystery that may never be solved. Some conspiracy theorists even believe Tupac is still alive.