The first police officer at the scene of Tupac Shakur’s 1996 drive-by murder has revealed that the rap legend’s final words were allegedly: “F*** you.”
“He looked at me, and he took a breath to get the words out, and he opened his mouth,” says Chris Carroll, a sergeant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department who retired in 2010.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was leaving a boxing match (Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon) with former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight. The rapper and his bodyguards got into a fight with Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, a 21-year-old Crips gang member and one of Knight’s associates, in the lobby of the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Earlier that year, Anderson and other Crips members robbed a Death Row member at a Foot Locker. Shakur, his entourage, Knight, and his entourage, attacked Anderson. The fight was captured on video surveillance. Carroll, who at the time worked with the city’s bike patrol unit, had also been watching the fight, but was unaware of the brawl in the lobby.
After the assault, Shakur went with Knight to Club 662. At around 11:00 p.m., the pair were pulled over on Las Vegas Boulevard by the LVMPD bicycle police for playing their stereo too loud and not having license plates. The plates were in Knight’s trunk and the pair were released without citation. A few minutes later, while stopped at a red light in front of the Maxim Hotel, a vehicle pulled up next to them. Shakur, who was standing up through the sunroof, exchanged words with two women inviting them to Club 662. A white, four-door Cadillac pulled up beside Knight and Shakur. The car rolled down a window and rapidly fired gunshots at Shakur. He was hit in the chest, pelvis, hand, and thigh. Knight was hit in the head by a fragment.
Carroll was the first officer on the scene, “I grab the car door and I’m trying to open it, but I can’t get it open. “[Knight] keeps coming up on my back, so I’m pointing my gun at him. I’m pointing it at the car. I’m yelling, ‘You guys lay down! And you, get the f*** away from me!’ And every time I’d point the gun at [Knight], he’d back off and even lift his hands up, like ‘All right! All right!’ So I’d go back to the car, and here he comes again. I’m like, ‘F***er, back off!’ This guy is huge, and the whole time he’s running around at the scene, he’s gushing blood from his head. Gushing blood! I mean the guy had clearly been hit in the head, but he had all his faculties. I couldn’t believe he was running around and doing what he was doing, yelling back and forth.”
Carroll said that when he finally got the door open, Shakur’s body fell out, “like he was leaning against [it].”
“So I grabbed him with my left arm, and he falls into me, and I’ve still got my gun in the other hand. He’s covered with blood, and I immediately notice that the guy’s got a ton of gold on — a necklace and other jewelry — and all of the gold is covered in blood. That has always left an image in my mind…After I pulled him out, Suge starts yelling at him, ‘Pac! Pac!’ And he just keeps yelling it. And the guy I’m holding is trying to yell back at him. He’s sitting up and he’s struggling to get the words out, but he can’t really do it. And as Suge is yelling ‘Pac!,’ I look down and I realize that this is Tupac Shakur.”
Carroll said that he attempted to get a “dying declaration” about the shooter. A dying declaration is a statement made by the victim about their assailant before possible death that is admissible in court. “Who shot you? What happened?”
“And then I saw in his face, in his movements, all of a sudden in the snap of a finger, he changed. And he went from struggling to speak, being noncooperative, to an ‘I’m at peace’ type of thing. Just like that…He went from fighting to ‘I can’t do it.’ And when he made that transition, he looked at me, and he’s looking right in my eyes. And that’s when I looked at him and said one more time, ‘Who shot you?’”
“He looked at me and he took a breath to get the words out, and he opened his mouth, and I thought I was actually going to get some cooperation. And then the words came out: ‘F*** you.’ After that, he started gurgling and slipping out of consciousness.”
Carroll said he came forward now because retiring allows him to speak about homicide cases, “It’s been almost 18 years. There’s clearly never going to be a court case on this,” he said. He acknowledged that a murder case is never technically closed, but said that “nothing more is ever going to happen…”
He also said he didn’t want to add to Tupac’s martyr or hero image by telling people he said “f*** you” to the police.
“I didn’t want to give him that. I didn’t want people to say, ‘Even when the chips were down, his life on the line…he still wouldn’t talk to the police.’ I didn’t want him to be a hero for that. And now enough time has passed, well, he’s a martyr anyway; he’s viewed as a hero anyway. My story, at this point, isn’t going to change any of that.”
Carroll said that Shakur never said anything else even when another officer tried to draw the declaration from him during the ambulance ride.
“As soon as he got to the hospital, he went into surgery and was heavily sedated, and I guess he went into a coma and really never came out of that, until they took him off of life support. “So that moment I talked to him was his last real living moment where he was speaking. I talked to the cop who rode in the ambulance with him. He said Tupac never came out of it, and he never said anything at the hospital. There was nothing else.”
Shakur died a few days later from internal bleeding. The official cause of death was respiratory failure (a bullet went into his lung) and cardiopulmonary arrest. Anderson was interviewed by police, but was killed two years later in an unrelated gang shooting. Sgt. Kevin Manning, who headed the investigation into Shakur’s death, told the media a year after the shooting that the case “may never be solved” and that it went cold almost immediately.
There have been numerous documentaries, investigative reports, and theories on who murdered Tupac Shakur. Among the theories are:
- A Compton, California gang called the Southside Crips killed Shakur to avenge the beating of Anderson. (LA Times two-part story Who Killed Tupac Shakur? by Chuck Philips, 2002)
- The murder of Shakur is often linked to the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace), Tupac’s rival at the time. B.I.G. was himself murdered six months later in the same manner. In his case, a black Chevrolet Impala, pulled up beside B.I.G.’s car and he was hit by four bullets. Some have said that his murder was a possible revenge killing for Shakur’s murder. B.I.G. denied any role in the murder of Shakur. Former LAPD detective Greg Kading wrote a book about the B.I.G. murder. He worked on the case for three years. He alleged in the book that Sean “Diddy” Combs, an associate of B.I.G. ordered Tupac’s murder. Then Wardell “Poochie” Fouse, an associate of Suge Knight, who was later killed in 2003, killed B.I.G. after Knight hired him through his girlfriend to avenge Tupac’s death.
- Another theory has Suge Knight killing Shakur because he wanted to leave the label. Carroll said that he doesn’t believe Knight had anything to do with it because he was also almost killed and he seemed to have “legitimate concern” for Shakur and “wasn’t acting”. A similar theory was put forth in the book The Murder of Biggie Smalls, it is posited that the murders were orchestrated by the record labels because the rappers were worth more dead than alive.
- Another theory arose in Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book Labyrinth, which was compiled using evidence from retired LAPD detective Russell Poole. Sullivan alleges that Suge Knight conspired with David Mack, an LAPD officer, to kill both Shakur and B.I.G. and wanted it to look like a rap rivalry. The book alleges that Amir Muhammad was the hit man. [Note: An informant recanted their statements in relation to this theory. In addition, Muhammand, a mortgage broker, denies all involvement and relationship with Mack.] The documentary Biggie & Tupac is based upon this book.
- LA Times in 2000 wrote an article about the possible connection with the Rampart Division of the police, which was part of a subsequent police-corruption scandal. [Note: The L.A. Times in 2002 concluded that the rappers were victims of the L.A. gang war.]
Both murders are unsolved. B.I.G.’s murder was reopened in 2006 because of a civil suit against the city filed by his family. No new leads were generated.