Sept. 13, 1996 — Trouble-plagued rapper and actor Tupac Shakur is dead at the age of 25 — just about a week after sustaining 4 bullet wounds last Saturday night in Las Vegas. Shakur spent the week in the hospital on a respirator in critical condition. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam, and fellow Death Row Records artist Hammer visited Shakur’s bedside on Sunday, when he had one of his lungs removed. Shakur’s mother, Afeni — featured in his “Dear Mama” video — and other family members kept a vigil at his hospital room in the intensive care unit of University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Early in the week, doctors rated Tupac’s chances of survival at one in five, then said his chances had improved on Tuesday, then on Thursday declined to speculate on his prognosis at all. Chris Connelly was on the scene to reconstruct the ultimately fatal events of last Saturday night.
CHRIS CONNELLY: I’m here in Vegas, where the most violent portion of Tupac Shakur’s
Saturday night was supposed to take place behind me, over there at the MGM Grand Hotel, where Tupac saw Mike Tyson pound Bruce Seldon into submission less than two minutes into their heavyweight bout. The fight ended around 8:55 PM local time, and from there, Tupac headed off to the home of Suge Knight, which is about 5 miles away from here. He’s the head of Death Row Records. From there, they were supposed to go to Club 662, that’s Knight’s club, for a celebration in honor of Tyson, that was going to feature entertainment by people like Run DMC. But the caravan of cars from Knight’s house never got to the club.
Tupac and Suge Knight left Knight’s home at around 10:30 PM to go to Club 662. By 11:15 that evening, they were heading east on Flamingo, just coming to this intersection here at Koval. They were driving a black BMW 1996 model. Knight was driving, Tupac was in the passenger’s seat. Along the passenger’s side came a late model white Cadillac. From inside, shots were fired,
14 of them. Tupac was hit four times, twice in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the thigh. Knight was mildly injured by some bullet fragments; but he promptly floored the car, spinning it completely around and took a U-turn so it instantly headed east on Flamingo.
With Tupac bleeding profusely in the passenger seat, Suge Knight was able to get his vehicle just about a mile away from the site of the shooting, something of a miracle given his condition, the condition of the car — which had a flat tire — and the fact that the traffic on the strip after a heavyweight fight in Vegas is something to behold. They made it to this corner here, Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, where they were finally pulled over by the Bike Patrol, who radioed ahead to paramedics, who swept them off to University Medical Center — their evening out in Las Vegas ending just a few steps away from where it had begun, the MGM Grand.
Shortly before midnight, Tupac was brought here, to UMC’s
Trauma Center, where he was immediately operated on, and then again about 20 hours later.
DALE PUGH, University Medical Center of Southwest Nevada: He’s had a right lung removed, he’s back in his room, and again, he remains in critical condition. He’s in the intensive care unit.
CONNELLY: Is he conscious? Can he communicate with his doctor?
PUGH: He has been conscious, he is under a lot of medication, so he’s pretty sedated at this time. He’s severely injured. Suffering multiple gun shot wounds is obviously a terrible insult to the human body, so he’s in very critical condition, and he’s requiring intensive care, and he is receiving that, right now.
Once again, Tupac Shakur died of those bullet wounds at the age of 25 on Friday, September 13.
Suge Knight, who was released from the hospital Sunday night, finally spoke with police on Wednesday, and told them he “heard something, but saw nothing” last Saturday night, leaving the cops with, as one spokesman
put it, “nothing” in the way of leads towards suspects or motives. Police also looked at security camera tapes from the Tyson fight at the MGM Grand, where Tupac and his entourage got into a scuffle with someone, who was ruled out as a suspect, since he was still held by security when Tupac left the building. Because there’s a possibility of Tupac’s shooting being gang-related, Vegas police got in touch on Thursday with Los Angeles police regarding two shootings that happened in LA this week. The Vegas P.D. has also been in touch with New York City police, for it was there that Tupac Shakur was shot two years ago. Of course, Tupac and trouble have hardly been strangers. Here now is a look back at his turbulent life and career.
MTV: Tupac Shakur’s public life began when he joined the seminal Bay Area rap ensemble, Digital Underground, first as a tour dancer, then as a rapper. Tupac demonstrated his range as a performer when his first solo record, “2Pacolypse Now,” was on the charts
at the same time as his critically-acclaimed feature film debut in the violent, coming of age drama, “Juice.” While he maintained a thug image, Tupac was a man of contradictions, recording sentimental raps in support of black women, including “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” and “Keep Ya Head Up.”
(From an interview, March 9, 1994)
TUPAC SHAKUR: Because I was raised by a woman half my life in the… streets, it’s like I got the woman’s side, then I got real rough, manly values, like, forced on me.
MTV: As Tupac’s film credits grew, with John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice,” he faced the possibility of doing time for assaulting director Alan Hughes, who had dropped him from the cast of “Menace II Society.”
TUPAC: If I have to go to jail, I don’t even want to be living. I want to just cease to exist for however long they have me there, and then when I come out, I’ll be reborn, you know what I’m saying? I’ll be taking less problems, and that my mind would be sharper, and
the venom would be more potent. So, they shouldn’t send me there. They should really try to… It’s like, you don’t want to throw gasoline on a fire to put it out.
MTV: What followed was a cross-country tour of courtrooms and jail houses: 10 days in a Michigan prison for assaulting a fellow rapper with a baseball bat (April 5, 1993); an arrest for allegedly shooting two off-duty Atlanta police officers, in which charges were eventually dropped (October 31, 1993); and sexual abuse, sodomy — both, allegedly, against a fan — and weapons charges in New York City (November 18, 1993). The day before he was convicted of sex abuse in New York, Tupac was shot five times in the lobby of a Times Square recording studio. The crime was officially classified as a robbery; and the police dropped their investigation when Tupac failed to cooperate.
(From an interview with Tabitha Soren, October 27, 1995)
TUPAC: That situation with me is like, what comes around, goes around… karma,
I believe in karma. I believe in all of that. I’m not worried about it. They missed. I’m not worried about it unless they come back.
MTV: While serving his sentence for sexual abuse, Tupac’s third solo release, “Me Against The World,” spent four weeks at number one.
TUPAC: It was a trip. Every time they used to say something bad to me, I’d go, “That’s all right. I got the number one record in the country.”
MTV: After eight months, Tupac’s case was appealed, and Death Row head Suge Knight promptly bailed Tupac out of jail, and took the opportunity to sign him to Death Row Records.
TUPAC (counting a handful of money after being signed to Death Row Records): If you come to Death Row, you will see your art brought to a bigger plateau, and you will be paid one of these days. Death Row…
MTV: Tupac turned his troubles to a career that was bigger than ever. His double album Death Row debut, “All Eyez On Me,” sold more than 5 million copies, scored a number
one single, and included tracks with new label mate, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Dr. Dre. With three years past since Snoop’s last solo release, and the departure of Death Row Co-Founder, Dr. Dre, to start his own label, Tupac became Death Row’s artistic centerpiece, as well as its biggest mouthpiece.
Death Row and Tupac shared a common enemy: the New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment. Tupac had earlier implicated Bad Boy Producer, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and star artist, the Notorious B.I.G., in his 1994 shooting.
TUPAC: Bad Boy Records. That’s for Bad Boy Records (he winks and holds up the handful of money from signing with Death Row). I love you all.
MTV: But despite his taunts, Tupac realized danger could be around the corner. Back in New York City for this year’s Video Music Awards, just three nights before he was shot in Las Vegas, Tupac surrounded himself with bodyguards and clutched a walkie talkie throughout the evening as a security precaution.
(From an interview
at the MTV Video Music Awards, September 4, 1996)
TUPAC: We are businessmen. We are not animals. It’s not like we’re going to see them and rush them and jump on them. If they see us and they want drama, we’re goin’ to definitely bring it like only Death Row can bring it…
We spoke this week with Ernest Dickerson, who directed Tupac in his big screen debut, “Juice,” and asked him what about Tupac might surprise people. Here’s what Dickerson told us.
ERNEST DICKERSON, Director, “Juice”: I think that he’s very introspective. I mean, when we were shooting “Juice,” in between takes, he would spend a lot of time by himself, writing. You know, he thinks a lot. He thinks about what’s going on in the world, he thinks about what’s going on in the neighborhoods. He thinks about what’s going on in this country and around the world, and he talks about it in his music. And the thing that I really got from Tupac was that he was always thinking, always at work. His mind was always
Tupac Shakur recently finished shooting another movie, called “Gridlock,” in which he and Tim Roth play heroin addicts trying to kick their habits. Described as “a buddy film for the 90’s,” it’s due out early next year.