Suge Knight

Tupac's Demise

In April of ’96, straight after Bad Boy’s Southside Crips and Death Row’s Mob Piru’s clashed at the Soul Train awards, Suge Knight announced his new venture of starting an east coast division of Death Row Records in Manhattan headed by Big Daddy Kane and Wu-Tang Clan. On September 7, Suge Knight used the MTV Awards to launch Death Row East with a huge entourage of his notorious Pirus. Making a grand entrance with intimidating stares toward the music industry executives, presidents and were separated from Bad Boy’s camp by over 20 NYPD officers. Suge used Tupac’s celebrity to promote the DR East project. Under a rift between the two, with Tupac completing his honoured contract for three album releases under Death Row, this would be the last interview for Tupac Shakur. Suge and he had made peace by meeting up again in Las Vegas in the following weekend for the Mike Tyson/Bruce Seldon fight night.

Suge had begun to stamp his authority on Sin City, Las Vegas and established himself in the city by opening up a club called 662. (spells out M-O-B on a keypad) He purchased a home in Monte Rosa Avenue in the Paradise Valley Township. An area exclusive to Las Vegas’ most notable citizens, across the road was Wayne Newton’s Shenandoah Ranch and two doors down was Mike Tyson’s home. The sprawling 1.33acre property bordered the 5,215 red brick house set with a backyard backing onto a gold course. Suge had first viewed the estate on Martin Scorsese’s film, Casino where it was shown as the house of Robert DeNiro’s character, Frank Rosenthal. Suge bought the place and promptly redecorated it unseen in the arse before. Painting the bottom of his swimming pool garishly blood-red with the Death Row symbol in the centre, the house was following suit of his Tarzana office, with red carpet and furniture. As well as his Rolls Royce Cornish he drives around town in. Suge embedded himself in the gangster lifestyle of Las Vegas.

Suge had tried for several years now to have an association with many of the country’s top crime families. Already Death Row lawyer, David Kenner had strong ties with the Genovese Family. Suge continued to collect contacts to infamous crime families of America. Son of ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro, John represented Suge as his Las Vegas attorney. Spilotro was a character from the film, Casino, the real life account about Chicago’s Outfit. Suge also retained the services of lawyer, Oscar Goodman the ‘Mouthpiece for the Mob’ who represented most of the important Mafioso charged in Las Vegas together with former U.S. Attorney David Chesoff. When Suge wanted to open 662 off The Strip he brought onside the two most powerful legal employees of Death Row. David Kenner and DR’s new business manager, Steve Cantrock who was connected with the ‘Las Vegas Businessman’ Robert Amira who years earlier had been indicted with Joseph Colombo Jr. and Alphonse ‘The Whale’ Merolla in a scam to defraud the Dunes Hotel with airline tickets. In suspicious format, the case against Amira had been dismissed. Suge successfully took possession of the club. The venue was formerly known as Botany’s but had become a Death Row clubhouse, housing packed crowds from hardcore Californian gangbangers to prominent black American celebrities all witnessing the recording stars of Death Row performing at Tyson after-parties and industry events. Las Vegas would experience some of the most rowdy disturbances and brawls the Sin City has ever seen.

On the night of Tyson’s latest fight against Bruce Seldon, Death Row was in town in full swing. Tupac was staying at the Luxor Hotel with his then-girlfriend, Kidada Jones (Daughter of Quincey Jones) and gambled most of the day between the Luxor’s floor and the MGM Grand casino floor. Suge Knight and ‘Pac united for the first round Tyson KO. The after party venue for Mike Tyson was to be held at 662 after the authorities allowed it to open up on the promise of the venue being a benefit for some retired boxer. Run D.M.C. were scheduled to perform.

In the MGM lobby, Tupac had raced after a Southside Crip in the venue. Orlando Anderson (who months earlier had entangled with Trevon ‘Tray’ Lane and his Mob homies outside a Compton convenience store and snatched his Death Row gold chain. There was a $10,000 bounty for a D.R. chain on the street.) was struck down by Tupac’s heavy blows and immediately Suge and his homeboys intervened to attack the victim. Tupac was pulled off by his security detail with his gold medallion link broken off from around his neck. Suge had taken part in the fight caught on CCTV and gave the word to exit the scene. The Death Row entourage stormed out of the vicinity. The party returned to The Luxor to change clothes before reuniting at Suge’s house before the club 662 opened for the after party. After leaving Suge’s Paradise Valley home, Tupac rode shotgun with Suge in his new black BMW With reckless abandonment, they drove erratically over towards 662. Stopped at a red light on Korval Lane, a white Cadillac halted in front and to the right of the BMW with four black men inside. The one in the rear left seat opened his window and extended his arm with a .40 calibre Glock sprayed BMW’s passenger side with 10-15 bullets.

Tupac tried desperately to climb into the backseat but in the process was hit four times. Two bullets pierced into his stomach opening up his “Thug Life” tattoo, two more hitting him in the leg and hand. The Caddy peeled away from The Strip leaving strong witnesses in the rear car containing Shakur’s bodyguard, Frank Alexander and two Outlawz. Tupac was critically wounded and Suge Knight was grazed slightly by a ricochet bullet on his scalp. By September 13, Tupac Shakur lost his life. Death Row Records would never be the same company again. Suge Knight survived the night in almost perfect health.

The Aftermath

4 days later the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office removed prosecutor, Larry Longo from the Stanley Brothers assault and robbery case against Suge Knight stemming from 1992. His involvement with a record deal for his daughter with Death Row Records rendered him unable to participate any further in the case. Word of Suge Knight living in Longo’s Malibu home would soon leave Lawrence Longo fired from his job within the year. All this was leading to further action for the D.A. office over Suge’s participation in the MGM Lobby fight with Orlando Anderson from CCTV footage. This would be a direct violation of his probation handed down to him from Judge Ouderkirk as a result from Longo’s prosecution team from the Stanley assault. Replaced by a much tougher Stephen Czuleger judge, Suge had already been sent to L.A. County jail for failing a court-ordered drug test three days earlier. A hearing to revoke his probation was set for February 1997.

By late September on the streets of California in the wake of Tupac Shakur’s murder eruption of gang war breaks out between the notorious Blood and Crip factions. Police informants report Suge Knight had delivered a load of AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and bullet proof vests to the Nickerson Gardens housing project, home to some of the most dangerous Blood Piru sets in the country. The worst gang-related fatalities were recorded since the temporary gang truce in 1992 across Los Angeles.

Suge continued downhill in a fiercely growing battle against him, immediately his public character besmirched reaching influential circles of people who would not know of Suge’s demeanour personally on a report by NBC Primetime he was described “Some say he’s the most dangerous man in music.” Together with detailed accounts of Vanilla Ice’s encounter with Suge. Both news agencies and law enforcement across America would rally against Suge forcing action to be taken as he breathed under the heavy microscope of the nation. The U.S. Justice Department’s multi-agency taskforce investigating Suge Knight’s involvement in trafficking guns and drugs seemed to surface and speak up also. But the worst weapon they had pointed at him was an employee of Suge’s turned federal witness, Steve Cantrock.

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