A couple weeks ago, I sat down with CNN's anchor/reporter Ted Rowlands and producer Michael Cary to talk about the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls murders. In Anderson Cooper's resulting blog post, Rowlands and Cary quoted a former Los Angeles Police Detective as saying, “Suge Knight ordered the hit [on Biggie Smalls]."
Smalls, 24, Brooklyn-born Christopher Wallace and also known as the Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down in L.A. while driving away from a VIBE magazine album release party at the Petersen Automotive Museum on March 9, 1997. Investigators suspect the killer was a lone gunman in an early model Chevy Impala who opened fire on Biggie's Suburban in a drive-by. Witnesses described the gunman as a thin-faced African-American man wearing a suit and a bow-tie.
The accusations toward Knight, who at the time ran Death Row Records, were from the mouth of one Russell Poole, who was one of many detectives who once worked on the Smalls murder investigation. Poole added, when he spoke with the CNN crew, that he believes the murder was organized by Reggie Wright Jr., who headed security for Death Row.
Poole went on to say he believes Knight ordered the murder of Tupac Shakur as well, even though Poole never worked on the Tupac investigation, after Shakur, 25, was gunned down in September 1996 near the Las Vegas Strip.
Bold words. The problem, however, with Poole's statements, which have become almost a mantra for him, is that there isn't a scintilla of evidence pointing to Knight as either committing or ordering the murder of Biggie Smalls. The LAPD launched both criminal and internal investigations into just that, to no avail. And Biggie Smalls' mother, Voletta Wallace, in 2006 sued the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD for a cover-up and sloppy handling of her son's case.
Investigators have long suspected that Biggie was killed because of an East Coast/West Coast rivalry between the rappers, who were from opposite coasts, which they have said may have caused the death of Shakur six months earlier. Wallace's family's suit against the LAPD was dismissed in 2010. Still, Voletta Wallace has said many times she has faith that her son's killer will one day be brought to justice.
But Detective Derrick Parker, a veteran of the NYPD specializing in hip-hop related crimes, told People magazine, "No disrespect to the LAPD," says the police officer nicknamed the "hip hop cop," "but every time they get a new set of detectives on it, it fizzles out. They lose a lot."
Poole is one of those officers who rotated in and out of the Smalls case. If Knight is, in fact, responsible for Smalls' murder, where's the evidence? Bring it forward. I'm not saying Knight is a Boy Scout. Far from it. It's common knowledge that he grew up on the streets of Compton and was a member of the Mob Piru gang.
And it's not as if the cops haven't tried to get Knight. In the aftermath of both murders, police in a variety of jurisdictions have hauled him into both county jails and prison for everything from outstanding traffic warrants, possession of marijuana, and violation of parole. He served time. But he has never been identified by the LAPD or the Las Vegas police as a person of interest, let alone a prime suspect, in either murders.
I was told by a source about a year and a half ago that a multi-task force had been formed to look into both Smalls' and Tupac's murders as a part of an in-depth gang probe. So far, the members of that task force have been silent. When the task force eventually winds up its work, maybe we'll then see whether Poole's words ring true. Until then, and without evidence, it's an empty accusation.
Knight, who was behind bars serving out a parole violation at the time Smalls was killed, has denied he had anything to do with the murder. And Reggie Wright has also said he had nothing to do with the killing.
As for an LAPD cover-up, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, who was chief of police at the time of the Smalls murder, said, simply, that allegations of a police cover-up are "absurd."
Click here to read CNN's blog.