Two years after the slaying of rapper Notorious B.I.G., Los Angeles police have named Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight as a suspect in the homicide.| Although Knight was behind bars at the time of the killing (March 9, 1997), police are investigating the rap don's possible involvement in a murder-for-hire plot against B.I.G. (ne Christopher Wallace), who was signed to Death Row's East coast rival label, Bad Boy Records.
"There's been different adjectives used to describe this guy," Lt.
Al Michelena said of Knight. "'Key,' 'prime,' etc. I use the
adjective possible -- possible suspect."
Michelena, who supervises the detectives investigating the case, stressed that Knight has not been charged and no arrests have been made.
"What we did, as we continue this investigation -- and I try to emphasize to people that we haven't stopped on this, we've been following this for two years -- but lately some evidence came to our attention that enabled us to get a search warrant for Death Row Records, and we served that search warrant yesterday at their headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard," he said. "We did search two other sites, but I'm not telling anybody in the media those locations. It's not to get everybody all excited -- like I tell everybody, Death Row Records was the big one. If I had my way, they'd all be confidential, but Death Row got out." The Los Angeles Times reported the recent developments on Tuesday morning, April 20.
Michelena confirmed that the police also seized Knight's 1995 Chevrolet Impala, which matches eyewitness descriptions of the car used in the drive-by shooting that claimed the life of Wallace after an industry party in L.A.
The investigation of Knight, who is serving a nine-year prison term in connection with a 1992 assault on two other rappers, returns the focus of the case to the infamous East Coast/West Coast rap feud headlined by Death Row and Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy label. On September 7, 1996, six months prior to Wallace's killing, his rival, Death Row rapper Tupac Shakur, was gunned down in Las Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight. Knight was in the car with Shakur at the time of the shooting.
Asked whether or not Knight was suspected of playing a role in a murder-for-hire plot against Wallace, Michelena simply said, "We'll see."
"This is just one step in following this particular lead," he said. "Obviously we hope the conclusion of this is that we'll be able to file a complaint against somebody, but there's nothing I see here in the immediate future," he said. "It's just one step -- it's a big step, and a high publicity step that's gained everybody's attention, but it's not an unusual step. This is something we do on any investigation -- executing search warrants, trying to gather evidence."
Knight's attorney, David Kenner, did not return a phone call on the matter Wednesday (April 21), and Death Row Records did not have an official statement ready by press time, though one employee commented, "I personally wish they'd spend as much time looking for Tupac's killer."
Like the Wallace shooting, Shakur's murder remains unsolved. Previously, police had been investigating the possible role of Compton gang members from the Southside Crips in both homicides: Wallace's reportedly stemming from an unpaid security bill, and Shakur's connected to the beating of a Crip member by the rapper's entourage hours before his shooting. In an unrelated gang raid in May of '97, police seized a dark Impala belonging to an alleged Crip that, like Knight's, matched eyewitness accounts of the one used in the Wallace drive-by. The owner of the car was interviewed the following month but told that he was not a suspect in the Wallace case.
Michelena, who began supervising the case in August of '98, said he did not have information on the seizure of the second Impala. Regarding the Knight lead, he said the next step for detectives will be to analyze the evidence gathered with their search warrants and see where it leads them next.
"You don't always expect to go in and see, 'X-marks-the-spot, this is the guy that did it,' but we do hope that it will lead us in a few other directions that might help us," he said. "This is going to take some time going through it to get a better understanding ... It's just part of the continuation of our investigation," he said. "I hope it will help us. Time will tell."