What We Know About The Witnesses To Tupac's Murder

The 1990s rap scene was dominated by an iconic rivalry that was part friendly competition, part media hype, and part literal gang war. It was a rivalry between "East Coast" and "West Coast" hip hop, and it was embodied particularly in two men: New York's Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace, and Los Angeles' Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Wallace both recorded multiple "diss tracks" attacking each other, and both had previous criminal records — both had done jail time — but to the casual observer, it was never quite clear how serious their professed mutual hatred was. In late 1996, though, it spilled over into the real world, and both men were murdered.

Shakur was shot in Las Vegas and subsequently died September 13; six months later, Wallace — possibly in an act of revenge — was killed as well. Both were high-profile killings with multiple witnesses, and yet, a quarter-century later, both murders remain unsolved. Shakur's murder in particular took place in a busy intersection, but despite an abundance of witnesses, we still know very little.

Here's what we can say for sure:

Tupac's murder was possibly gang-related

For some gangsta rappers, the image is a persona — one adopted for artistic or commercial purposes. Shakur, on the other hand, had genuine ties to gang warfare.

The night of his murder, he was known to have been involved in an altercation with at least one member of LA's Bloods gang. Shakur was in Las Vegas to attend a fight between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon; on the way there, he was witnessed in a scuffle with a known Blood in the MGM Grand Hotel lobby (via History). Still, the evening seemed to go off uneventfully for Shakur, at least at first, and he managed to witness the match relatively unbothered. It was on the return trip, however, that the murder occurred.

After the fight, Shakur was riding as a passenger in a BMW being driven by Death Row Records co-founder and CEO Marion "Suge" Knight, when a white Cadillac carrying four men pulled up alongside it. One of the men pulled out a gun and fired 12 rounds into the BMW, one of which grazed Knight's head, and four of which hit Shakur in the chest. Shakur was rushed to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, but died from his wounds six days later (via the Las Vegas Sun).

The witnesses to Tupac's shooting aren't talking

The BMW was part of a ten-car entourage, so in theory, there were plenty of witnesses to the murder; however, everyone who was in the vicinity has proven either unable or unwilling to talk. Suge Knight, who had a literal front-row seat to the event has gone on record as saying he knows nothing — and if he did, he wouldn't tell the cops (via CourtTV). Meanwhile, the man who was in the car directly behind Shakurs, Yafeu "Yaki Kadafi" Fula, was found murdered in a New Jersey housing project just a week after Shakur's death — which is pretty suspicious, but no one ever managed to tie his murder to Shakur's (via E!). Other members of the caravan, like Shakur's bodyguard Frank Alexander and Shakur associate Rob Stein, apparently weren't even questioned by police (via All HipHop).

A mysterious case like this is bound to inspire an outpouring of conspiracy theories (Was Biggie behind it? Did Tupac fake his death?), but ultimately the main culprit behind the lack of answers here seems to be the mutual mistrust between black men and police in the U.S. The cops were accused, not unfairly, of not looking particularly hard into the case; if they had, though, it looks as though the best witnesses would have been unable or unwilling to cooperate.

In any case, the only suspect identified by police, gang member Orlando Anderson, died in a shootout in 1998, so this mystery might never be solved.