Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One Fatal Night in Las Vegas

by Cathy Scott

This week marks the fourteenth anniversary of the day Tupac Shakur was shot. 

And with the anniversary comes ESPN’s new documentary: One Night in Vegas: Tyson & Tupac. The rap star, poet and actor was gunned down just hours after watching Mike Tyson knock out Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “(Tupac) didn't last long, but the time he did last, every minute, every tenth of a moment, was explosive," Tyson told ESPN. 

Tupac was also explosive. In the minutes following Tyson’s professional fight, Tupac got into a street-like fight inside the MGM Grand as he was leaving the arena. 

At the elevator bank just before the MGM’s main lobby, Tupac and his crew ran into Orlando Anderson, a known Crips street gang member from Compton, California. Tupac’s music producer, Suge Knight, who was with Tupac that night, was a known member of the rival gang Mob Piru.

When he spotted Anderson, Tupac said to him, “You’re from the South,” meaning South Compton. And the fight was on. Tupac, Suge and their entourage stomped and kicked Anderson. A security guard split them up, but Orlando, when Las Vegas police arrived, declined to press charges. The officers did not file a police report and did not even take Orlando’s last name. It would be Compton gang cops, a few days after the shooting, when Las Vegas police realized the scuffle might have significance, later offered up Orlando’s full name. They also offered up Orlando's lengthy rap sheet, gang history, and his street moniker "Baby Lane." 

Backpedal a few years to 1992 after Tyson was sent to prison to serve out a sentence for rape. That’s when Tupac reached out to Iron Mike, saying he was going to be in the area and would like to visit him in prison. While they may have been an unlikely pair, both knew how to put up a fight, as evidenced later with the MGM scuffle Tupac started. 

From prison, Tyson paid attention to Tupac’s thug-life image. They regularly talked on the phone. That’s when Tyson, who was a few years older than Shakur, handed out brotherly advice. Shakur told friends it meant a lot to him. “Tyson was giving me a lot of advice,” Tupac told a radio station. “I really looked up to him something hard. He’d tell me to calm down.”

But 'Pac did not appear to take it to heart. And he did not calm down. By the time Tyson was released from prison in 1995, Tupac was in jail on Rikers Island in New York, held on suspicion of a similar charge as Tyson’s, this one sexual abuse against a woman Tupac had met at a club and took back to a friend’s hotel room. Tupac was convicted and sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

Tupac was released on bond, posted by his record producer Suge Knight, pending an appeal. But before the appeal could be heard, Tupac was dead. 

The same night as the Tyson-Seldon fight, Tupac was shot when a gunman in a white Cadillac pulled up to Tupac and Suge’s car and opened fire with a high-caliber Glock handgun, hitting Tupac several times, including in the chest. The Clark County coroner determined the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds. 

The last time Tyson would talk to Tupac would be in Tyson’s dressing room immediately following the fight. “I told him I’d see him that night and we could hang out,” Tyson told ESPN. Six days later, the 25-year-old hip-hop star was dead. Tupac’s unsolved murder has frustrated rap fans ever since, despite Compton Police (a law enforcement department which has since merged with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department) offering up Orlando Anderson as a suspect. For their part, Las Vegas police have said there wasn’t enough evidence against Orlando, and members of Tupac’s entourage were uncooperative. I began covering the case a couple of hours after the shooting, which was the topic of my book, The Killing of Tupac Shakur, and it appeared, after Anderson's name had become known, that there was motive -- the scuffle -- not to mention Compton Police's discovery of a Glock in the home Anderson lived in and Anderson bragging on his home turf that he'd killed Tupac. But Las Vegas police, who traveled to Compton, did not formally interview Anderson and declined to arrest him. Eighteen months after Tupac was killed, Orlando Anderson was murdered in what police said was an unrelated shooting. We may never know if Orlando was, in fact, the gunman in Tupac's death. 

As for Tyson, he told ESPN that Tupac’s memory lives on through his works. "He's going to last until the time this Earth comes to an end. I'm glad to be a part of his life and to have known him. (Tupac) was probably a misguided warrior. He had a heart as big as this planet. He had so much love and compassion, and you couldn't even see it under his rage." 

In the meantime, the murder of Tupac Shakur, unofficially at least, remains unsolved. 

Photo of Tyson and Tupac, courtesy of ESPN. Other photos courtesy of Yahoo! Images.

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