Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hip-Hop Homicide

A Fatal Blow

On September 24, 1995, the West Coast contingent suffered another blow, and this time it was fatal. The occasion was a late-night birthday party for a record producer at the Platinum House in Atlanta. Suge Knight and Puffy Combs were in attendance with their respective entourages. A fight broke out outside the nightclub and shots were fired. Jake Robles, a Death Row employee who was also a Mob Piru Blood, lay on the ground, seriously wounded. Robles was a close friend of Suge Knight. Witnesses accused Puffy Combs's bodyguard of the shooting, and Knight immediately put the blame directly on Combs.

A few days after Jake Robles's death, Mark Anthony Bell, an independent record promoter from New York, was contacted by a mysterious stranger who promised him a record deal if he "cooperated." According to Randall Sullivan in LAbyrinth, Bell had gone to high school with Puffy Combs and had done some work for Bad Boy. The stranger asked Bell to write down the home addresses of Combs and Combs's mother on a piece of paper and drop them on the ground where it could be retrieved. The stranger assured Bell that his "help" would never be revealed. Bells refused to give out any information about Combs, suspecting that the stranger was in some way connected to Death Row.

Three months later Bell attended the Death Row Christmas party at Chateau Le Blanc in Hollywood. When Suge Knight arrived, he went over to Bell and asked, "Why didn't you cooperate when you had had the chance?" Bell told him that he didn't know Combs's home address. Knight invited Bell up to the V.I.P. room for a little talk. Six other men accompanied them, including rappers Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur.

In the V.I.P. room, Knight continued to question Bell about Puffy Combs. When Knight didn't get the answers he wanted, "an especially scary-looking Blood" punched Bell in the face several times. "This is for Jake," the Blood said, then promised to kill Bell .

Suge Knight left the room and went into the bathroom. When he returned, he was holding a champagne flute filled with urine. He ordered Bell to drink it. When Bell refused, the Blood hit him again. Bell took the glass as if he was going to drink it, then suddenly dropped it and ran for the balcony, intent on escaping. The others caught him as he tried to leap over the railing. They hauled him back into the room and beat him savagely, taking orders from Knight who shouted, "'Body blows only!'" Bell finally played dead and the beating ended, but not before his assailants stripped him of his wallet and jewelry.

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Suge Knight awarded special friends with expensive Death Row medallions that featured the company's electric-chair logo in gold and diamonds. In July of 1996 a Mob Piru named Tray Lane was wearing his medallion while shopping with two fellow Bloods at the Foot Locker at the Lakewood Mall in California. A group of seven or eight Crips entered the store and jumped the three Bloods. During the melee one of the Crips took Lane's Death Row medallion. It was a relatively minor incident in the ongoing gang war, but it would prove to be the spark that touched off an explosion in the East Coast-West Coast feud, resulting in the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

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