Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hip-Hop Homicide

"THUG LIFE"

At 8:45 P.M. on September 7, 1996 — two months after Tray Lane was robbed of his Death Row medallion — Lane was in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. He was with Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight, and a group of Mob Piru Blood bodyguards. They had just attended the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight at the hotel — one of Tyson's many Round One knockouts — and were on their way out when Lane spotted a young man across the lobby. The young man's name was Orlando Anderson, and Lane recognized him as one of the Crips who had beaten him and stolen his medallion. Lane's group rushed Anderson, knocked him to the ground, and proceeded to beat, kick, and stomp him. The 30-second incident was caught on tape by the hotel's security cameras. It showed Shakur and Knight participating in the assault, Shakur throwing the first punch. By the time the police arrived, the Death Row contingent was gone. Anderson refused to press charges.

Later that night a caravan of luxury vehicles was wending its way through the congested streets of Las Vegas, heading for Club 662, a known Blood hangout. (662 is California penal code for death row). It was a Death Row Records caravan, and Suge Knight was behind the wheel of the lead car, a black BMW 750. Tupac Shakur was sitting in the front passenger seat. At around 11:17 P.M., Knight pulled to a stop at a red light on Flamingo Road. The streets were jammed with tourists. Shakur was flirting with a car full of girls to the left of the BMW so he didn't notice the white Cadillac with four black men inside pulling up on their right. A hand holding a gun emerged from the Cadillac's backseat through the driver's window. Shots were fired into the BMW.

When Shakur realized what was happening, he tried to jump into the backseat for cover, but he was hit four times in the chest. A bullet fragment grazed Knight's head, but he still managed to maneuver the BMW around the stopped traffic, making a U-turn and heading back toward the Strip. The other vehicles in the Death Row caravan followed him. He finally stopped when he ran his car into a curb. When the police arrived, they called for an ambulance for Shakur and ordered everyone else out of their vehicles, treating the Death Row entourage as suspects. In the meantime the white Cadillac slipped away into the night.

Shakur was rushed to the University Medical Center where doctors performed emergency surgery to save his life. In an effort to stem the internal bleeding, surgeons removed his right lung. Suge Knight stood vigil at the hospital with Shakur's family, waiting for hopeful news. His heart stopped beating several times, and doctors revived him. Finally Shakur's mother Afeni decided not to resuscitate her son if he went into arrest again, explaining to reporters that "it was important for his spirit to be allowed to be free." Six days after he was shot, Tupac Shakur died.

When Shakur's body lay face up on a gurney about to be autopsied, his infamous tattoos were fully displayed, including his signature phrase, THUG LIFE, in large letters in a semi-circle around his abdomen. 

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