Chuck Phillips: Me Against The World

Chuck Philips is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, he’s also the man who shocked the hip-hop community and the world in September of 2002 with his two-part investigative report on the murder of Tupac Shakur. The first part of his piece introduced claims that had never previously been made public, […]

Chuck Philips is

a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, he’s also the man

who shocked the hip-hop community and the world in September of 2002 with his

two-part investigative report on the murder of Tupac Shakur. The first part

of his piece introduced claims that had never previously been made public, namely

that the Notorious B.I.G. supplied a bounty and the murder weapon for the execution

of his then rival, Tupac Shakur.

For the first time since his piece was published, Chuck Philips offers new insight

into the alleged involvement of Biggie Smalls in Tupac’s murder and elaborates

on the half of his piece that was erroneously overlooked by us all. Read carefully!


You expressed to me previously your frustrations with the lack of focus placed

on the second part of your piece, so what I want to do is go through that part

of your piece and just give you quotes from the piece and have you expand on

each one for our readers. Alright, the first quote is: "Las Vegas police

were slow to grasp that the roots of the killing lay in a feud between rival

gangs in Compton, and were slow to act once they did realize it."


This was basically about MOB Piru Bloods and Southside Crips, and you know Tupac

was with some MOB Piru Bloods who beat up a Southside Crip member at unfortunately

for him a time when Las Vegas was full of Southside Crips. There were a lot

of Southside Crips there that night, and they retaliated. And if you go back

and read through some of the original press releases and watch some of the news

footage from then, the police did not think that the beating of Orlando Anderson

in the lobby of the MGM Hotel had anything to do with it.


killings are extremely difficult to solve because there is usually little evidence

and few witnesses are willing to talk. Shakur’s associates were particularly

unlikely to volunteer information."


I’ve done a lot of stories about gang killings and it is very difficult to get

people to talk because the people that really know about the killings usually

are in the gangs themselves, and/or have relatives in the gang, or live in the

neighborhood where the gang operates, and it is not a safe thing for these people

to talk. One of the biggest code violations in a gang is to snitch, to speak

to anybody about anything related to a crime. Even the Mothers and the Grandmothers,

the really sweet, church-going people are not fond of the police in these gang

neighborhoods. They feel the police will not help them, do not help them, to

prevent these crimes, and the police expect them to risk their lives to help

solve these crimes. And frequently the police don’t protect witnesses in these

cases. This crime was particularly difficult because the gang members who committed

it didn’t live in Las Vegas, most of them; the gang was based in Compton, California.


Vegas police worried that the Compton investigators were too close to the gangs

and their rap-industry patrons and might leak information."


At the time of the shooting the guy who ran the gang unit in Compton, Reggie

Wright Sr., who everyone I talked to said was one of the best gang detectives

there is, his son, Reggie Wright Jr., worked for Suge Knight. Reggie Wright

Jr. used to be a Compton cop, and he went and ran a security agency for Suge

Knight. So the police from Las Vegas were very apprehensive to take information

from or tell anything to the Compton police officers, because they thought Reggie

Wright Sr. was going to tell Reggie Wright Jr. and Reggie Wright Jr. was going

to tell Suge Knight. There were a lot of people involved in the investigation

who were very suspicious of Suge Knight because he wouldn’t talk. So there was

speculation, and there’s still speculation as you know, and other theories that

Suge Knight set this murder up. I don’t believe that to be true at all and my

sources said that that is not at all what happened.

ALLHIPHOP: "Immediately

after the shooting, the assailants returned to Compton, where they bragged to

their friends and girlfriends. The Compton gang unit was soon deluged with tips

implicating the Crips and "Baby Lane," Anderson’s gang nickname."


Well, you’ve read the affidavit right?


I have.


The affidavit pretty much spells that out, how that went down. And I’ve interviewed

a lot of people, the officer who wrote it, and a number of other detectives

in that unit, as well as the police in Las Vegas, and they got calls in Las

Vegas about Baby Lane. They got calls from people in prison out here who heard

about the shooting the next day and the name Baby Lane from the Southside Crips

came up from them immediately. That happens a lot of times with gang killings,

they got even more tips because Tupac was such a huge star.


Vegas police had heard about the beating in the MGM Grand lobby and reviewed

a security videotape of it. But they did not know who Anderson was or why the

incident mattered."


Yes, that’s true. They just didn’t know who it was. All of the sourcing, all

of the information surrounding this shooting lied in Compton, it didn’t lie

in Las Vegas. They would have to take special trips to go there.


week after the shooting, Compton gang investigators reviewed the videotape at

the request of Las Vegas police. They identified the beating victim as Anderson,

explained his gang affiliation and said the bodyguards seen flailing at him

were Bloods." "Las Vegas police stuck to their position that the beating

was irrelevant. (Sgt. Kevin) Manning told an interviewer, ‘It appears to be

just an individual who was walking through the MGM and got into an argument

with Tupac…He probably didn’t even know it was Tupac Shakur’"


I think they just didn’t understand the connection. They were getting calls

that this was a hit that came out of New York. They were inundated with phone

calls as to what the murder may have been about. They didn’t even know until

sometime after this how big of a star Tupac actually was, so to them he was

just another murder victim. And with these kind of cases, if you miss a certain

opportunity sometimes it never comes back to you. And in this case one of the

witnesses who said he would help them got shot and killed. Even though he may

not have been willing to testify, he still could have been shown the video to

see if he could identify Orlando as the shooter, they never showed him that

video. I think they just didn’t understand the value of the videotape, even

though they were told by the Compton police how important that was.


ruled Anderson out as a suspect, Las Vegas police did not try to track him down

for questioning or show his photograph to members of Shakur’s entourage…Police

also failed to retrieve additional security video that might have captured Anderson’s

movements after he was beaten."


I was told by various gang members that some of the people involved in this

shooting, their movements were captured on video cameras. You have to capture

that tape within a week if I remember correctly before they reuse the tapes.

Those tapes were available to the police. I don’t believe they would have captured

the actual shooting but there were cameras in the various hotels were they stayed,

they entered certain rooms, there were cameras in the hallways, and all of that

footage was lost.


their first moments on the scene, Las Vegas police unintentionally alienated

the witnesses most likely to be able to identify the rapper’s assailants."


They did that. According to the people I interviewed the police harassed them,

and these were people who didn’t do anything and were very upset that Tupac

was shot. And possibly they could be the only witnesses, everybody in those

cars, and it doesn’t help you any to throw those guys down on the ground and

mistreat them. And the police never apologized, they never tried to court or

woo back any of the people they did this to.


was one witness willing to help: a 19-year-old rapper named Yafeu "Kadafi"

Fula…Fula was among the dozen or so members of Shakur’s circle who remained

in Las Vegas after the shooting, keeping vigil at University Medical Center,

where Shakur was on life support. During that week, detectives made no attempt

to follow up with Fula."


That’s what I was told, and I believe that’s true. And the only time police

did interact with him there was a disturbance at the hospital because the police

were starting to hassle someone that the Outlawz knew, and they approached the

police car and the police turned on them, threw them all down and handcuffed

them. And if I’m not mistaken they busted Fula for weed, and they didn’t take

him into custody, but here you have a guy who has told you that he’ll help if

he can and how do you treat him, you throw him down on the ground and handcuff



on the morning of Oct. 2, 1996, Compton police, FBI agents and members of the

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department swept through Compton, arresting nearly

two dozen gang members…Orlando Anderson was among those sitting in the

Compton police lockup…Two Las Vegas detectives took part in the roundup

at the invitation of Compton police. One of them questioned Anderson for about

20 minutes…The visiting detectives brushed aside a suggestion that they

question the other gang members."


That’s based on interviews with everybody that was there that day. The Las Vegas

police claimed that they allowed Compton police to interview on their behalf,

some of the Compton cops said that wasn’t true, they told Vegas you’re allowed

to ask anything that you want. Some of the Compton police felt that the Vegas

detectives weren’t wholeheartedly interested in this case. The raid took place

to end the gang war that had broken out after Tupac’s shooting, but they also

felt that they could round up the people who were in the shooter’s car that

night, and they rounded up the people they believed were in that car and also

people who knew who was in that car, and Vegas never interviewed those people.


Las Vegas, one of Shakur’s bodyguards had gotten off a shot at the white Cadillac

as it fled. The word on the street in Compton was that the Crips brought the

car to the stereo shop to have the damage repaired…The Compton gang investigators

then canvassed every rental agency in the area…They found that a Carson

agency had rented such a car to a man with possible ties to the gang underground…They

took a photograph of the car and detailed their findings in a report…Compton

investigators say they gave this additional information to Las Vegas police.

Manning said his detectives never received it."


We ran a picture in the paper of what was believed to have been the car that

carried the people that killed Tupac. I don’t think Las Vegas police have ever

even looked at that car.


that covers the second part of your piece, but I do have just a few questions

that tie into the first part of your piece. First, did you see the December

2002 issue of Vibe magazine that ran a timeline countering your claim of the

Crips meeting up with Biggie before the shooting?


Yes I did. I completely disagree with that timeline. I believe what I reported

is what happened.


divulging names, can you tell me how many sources you had that implicated Biggie?


I don’t want to say how many I had, but I had more than one. I never write a

story with just one source. I believe that everything I wrote in the piece is

true. I know there is more to what happened than I wrote, and we’ll see what

happens in the end. The most critical misunderstanding of the story was that

there was never like a phone call that came from New York, it was never like

Biggie ever set that night for that to happen, it was a whole chain of circumstances

that depended on the thing that happened before it. It was all kind of spontaneous,

how one thing moved into the next. If Orlando hadn’t gotten beat up then the

Crips wouldn’t have jammed Biggie and whoever else was in the room, and then

had the opening not appeared on the street at the moment it happened it wouldn’t

have happened on that corner, it may have happened later that night or it may

have never happened. All I would see is these headlines, "Biggie ordered

this, blah, blah, blah," and it was more like Biggie got jacked for this



reason that I wanted to interview you, is to bring the readers who may have

dismissed your piece based on the Biggie stuff back to it to see all of the

information they missed regarding the investigation.


A lot of people don’t know about all of the work I’ve done covering this. This

story took almost two years to do. And prior to this story if you go back and

pull all of the stories written on Tupac and Biggie, my name is on a whole lot

of the stories that were breaking stories. My whole goal with all of the pieces

was to find out who did it, not to create a disturbance or to throw mud on anybody.

I was as shocked as anybody else when these were the things that came up.


any physical evidence that you can give to our readers that can substantiate

your sources claim that Biggie was in Vegas that night?


You have to realize that when you get information from sources you can endanger

those people’s lives by divulging that information. You have to protect that

information. A good reporter will never reveal anything that would lead anyone

to their source.


I believe you’ve already made this pretty obvious, but for the sake of clarity,

who do you believe murdered Tupac Shakur?


I believe the Southside Crips killed him.