September 13, 1996. March 9, 1997. If you’re a hip hop fan over the age of 16 you most likely know the significance of these dates. If not, quick lesson: Tupac Shakur was gunned down on September 7, 1996, and died 6 days later on September 13, 1996 in Las Vegas, Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace was murdered April 9, 1997 on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. The deaths of Tupac & Biggie remain unsolved. Even worse, both case have been wrought with corruption claims, misinformation and incompetence on the part of investigators.
Michael Douglas Carlin is an author and documentarian. He is also a big fan of ‘Pac and Big. This is fortunate for hip hop; but more importantly it’s important for Ms. Shakur and Ms. Wallace, who’ve had to endure close to two decades of not knowing who killed their sons. We linked up with Mr. Carlin and tried to get a feel for why he’s so passionate about this, and why nothing has happened in either of these high profile murder cases in more than 15 years.
You don’t seem like the typical 2Pac/Biggie fan. What is it that drew you to this story?
On that 12 hour trip I came to love Tupac and Biggie. My son and his friends would play Tupac and Biggie in our home for many years. Whenever I hear those songs I think of those good times with my son and his friends.
I was working on a humanitarian project with Russ Poole’s Uncle. I was introduced to Russ and he told me about this project. We agreed to meet and I agreed to go meet with Chris Blatchford. After that meeting I decided to jump on board the Tupac:187 project.
One of the ground rules we established was that we were only interested in the truth. Both Russ and RJ had a preconceived position that Suge Knight was behind the murder of Tupac. As we all began pouring over the evidence again we came to understand that Tupac and Suge were both targets that night. What makes this big is that both of them have publicly called out Suge Knight and they both struggled with this realization. But it was a defining moment in the project because they proved that they were really only interested in the truth.
Why do you think it has taken so long for the truth about what has happened to both Tupac and Biggie to come out? Or has it already come out? Some people would say that this is just conspiracy theorists looking for a new theory to hang their hat on.
Second are those that would have to pay huge sums if they were found liable for the murders. The LAPD and City of Los Angeles were facing the realistic possibility that they would have to pay out billions of dollars. They went to great lengths to conceal the truth. They sequestered documents and withheld them from the Wallace Estate and they snuck in files to Waymond Anderson so that he could derail the Wallace Attorney’s investigation. After Mrs. Wallace spent millions of dollars to get to the truth they weakened her resolve. How many more road blocks would the City of Los Angeles throw up in her legal team’s face to avoid paying out a sum that could have bankrupted Los Angeles? If the truth was that Orlando Anderson and Poochie were the killers why would the City go to all of that trouble to derail the civil trial? The truth is that they were very concerned that the same cops that were found guilty in the Rampart Scandal also participated in Biggie’s murder. They were also in Las Vegas on the night Tupac was killed. I think that is the real reason they leaked the confession letter recently. They are afraid to dig up the old wounds for fear that the department would be embarrassed.
I would simply say that in this climate of racism being proven in police departments all over America, the LAPD could go a long way to heal our Nation by breaking with the past and beginning a new era of community policing (a transformation that has already begun) and transparency by settling with Mrs. Wallace by re-opening the investigations in ernest. Mrs. Wallace made it clear that she didn’t want their billions that she just wanted the truth. They lied to her at the conclusion of the settlement of the second suit by telling her they would reinvestigate and then shut down the case a month later. The current Los Angeles leadership was not in office when this happened. They have no responsibility for what was done then… they only have responsibility for how they handle it now.
If they fail to act responsibly we can always reach out to Barack Obama. We have an election year coming up and if the local police fail to act, then the Federal Government could be asked to step in.
The fans deserve to pour over the evidence and come to the same conclusions. If there are others with alternate theories I am very open to looking at additional evidence. Tupac and Biggie fans have been through a lot. I don’t blame fans for being wary of “new information” because they have all been put through a roller-coaster for so long about “The Truth.”
I can say this about Russell Poole – he takes his oath as a homicide investigator seriously. He has been bothered about not seeing this case get to a conviction. He now wants arrests and convictions. There is ample evidence to bring people in for questioning and to make a case to a Grand Jury. Russell and I created a page where we make a case for Law Enforcement to reopen the investigations.
The truth is not all out there yet. We can’t do it alone. We need everybody that knows something to come forward with their clues. We also need law enforcement to perform interrogations.
Wow. So you’re thinking about taking this all the way to the federal level? What do you think the reality of President Obama doing something is? Or do you think it may be something that’s more likely to happen once he’s out of office?
President Obama is a very skilled politician. He will not pursue this unless he hears from fans that ask him politely and he decides to move this up to the top of his priorities. He has already weighed in on the racism – this is a similar theme… If these were white artists no stone would have been unturned. It would be a shame for him to leave office without getting justice for Tupac & Biggie. But the fans must politely demand it!
So within the past year, I heard a conversation that had been recorded between Tupac and “Monster” Kody Scott (now Sanyika Shakur). In the call he alludes to knowing who shot him the first time. Do you believe the Vegas shooting was related to that at all?
I watched the unreleased film, “Tupac – The Early Years” that addresses the New York shooting. Biggie had absolutely nothing to do with that. In fact, Biggie had nothing to do with either shooting. That was all hype to sell records. The family laments not letting the truth get out about the New York shooting because they feel the rivalry was what led to the Vegas shooting. Part of what will give the family closure is when they know that they did not contribute to Tupac’s death by not revealing the facts about what happened in New York. I won’t spoil the message of the film by revealing the exact details. The shootings are 100% unrelated.
I remember Chuck Phillips doing an LA Times piece where he basically said that Biggie was in Vegas that night and had Tupac set up, after a clandestine meeting with members of the Crips. Any validity to that claim, in your opinion?
Frank Alexander made secret recordings in the aftermath of the Tupac murder and attempted murder of Suge Knight. We listened carefully to those tapes. They give tremendous insight into Chuck Philips interview and story techniques. He called Frank with the premise that Orlando Anderson was the shooter and tried to sell that conclusion to Frank. He asked Frank three times to allow him to run with a quote that he (Frank) could identify the shooter. Three times Frank refuses by stating that this is a question for law enforcement. The article runs with a Malcolm Greenridge quote and a Frank Alexander quote in an effort to beat up LVMPD’s handling of the case. Philips was a character assassin NOT a journalist. Eventually his lies caught up with him but not before he was able to forever taint the investigations. This will become one of the hurdles for prosecutors in moving forward.