By Michael Douglas Carlin
Today as I sit and reflect on the events of the last couple of days I get a chance to put it all in perspective without emotions clouding my judgment or being manipulated by information being released through various media outlets or on YouTube.
Russell always had doing what is right as his priority – he had the truth as his sword and justice as his shield. Russell Poole was a dear friend. He was a no-nonsense cop that bled blue. He respected police and the role of the homicide investigator in bringing perpetrators of crimes to justice. For 19 years he worked for the Los Angeles Police Department as a dedicated member of a well-respected team. He did everything he could to maintain the integrity of that team. When the leadership of that team placed a greater emphasis on shielding criminals than investigating them Russell Poole tendered his resignation.
Russell and I made a pact that we were not going to tell anyone about the meeting with the Sheriff’s Department. The investigator called Russell the day before the meeting to generally get an idea of what would be talked about and to confirm the meeting. We were starting to get traction in the case. Russell and I had several social meetings with Dave Demerjian from the DA’s office about the case choosing to meet over a beer rather than cause a stir by Russell’s visit to the DA’s Office. We had given Dave a copy of Tupac:187 and he was unenthusiastic about the idea of reopening the case. When Russell and I compiled the Tupac Murder Facts he started to show genuine interest, “Russ, I need an investigator from inside of law enforcement to move forward on this case.”
Both Russell and I had been in contact with Sheriff Jim McDonnell about the case and we began with a conference call. Jim had recently taken over the department and was buried just getting the lay of the land. He became unresponsive to either of Russell or my text messages or voice messages simply because he was being pulled in so many different directions.
Leadership LA was hosting an event where McDonnell would be the guest speaker so as an alumni I attended and cornered McDonnell and told him that we needed someone from inside of the Sheriff’s Department to work with the DA’s office. Jim reluctantly agreed to get us an investigator and then scurried off to a meeting with Vice President Biden. I followed up with his executive aide, Lieutenant Kerry Carter with an email that included both of our emails and telephone numbers. They called Russell to schedule a meeting for August 19, 2015 at 10 a.m.. Russell was asked to come alone.
At 9:02 a.m. Russell called me and we talked for 7 minutes. He told me he was stuck in traffic around Diamond Bar. On the phone he told me that he would be staying at his son’s condo to visit the doctor on Thursday. He was going to have his blood pressure medicine adjusted. We talked about the upcoming meeting and he promised to call me the minute he got out of the meeting. He said, “if anything happens to me you have to get the information we compiled out there.”
Noon rolled around and I assumed he was extending this into lunch but was encouraged that it was taking longer than anticipated. I even thought that maybe he was being offered a job with the Sheriff’s Department. At 3:51 p.m. I sent another text message, “still going???” A while later I sent, “Damn!” and then a little while later, “Must be a great meeting.” I had no idea what was actually happening. At 5:28 p.m. I got a text from one of our confidential informants telling me, “I just heard Russell has died, what the f***!!!!” I went on to Google and saw the news and that it had been posted 24 minutes earlier. I was devastated. The friend I was with started to scour the web while I made some telephone calls. Six minutes later, I was listening to Reggie Wright Jr.’s interview on Bomb1st.com. Now the questions were racing in my mind. How did Wright get a video posted so quickly. It is a 13.32-minute interview so walk that back. It had to take time to call it in, to put the background up, to publish it, to post it, and for it to aggregate into the search engines. For a time it was appearing in the first couple of listings on Google. We clicked on the video to listen to it a second time and the video had all of a sudden become private and couldn’t be played.
Did Wright know Poole wasn’t going to be walking out of the Sheriff’s office alive? It all certainly seemed fishy to me. Almost like the Kevin Hackey interview Poole had conducted, earlier in his career, where Hackie tells of Wright knowing about the murder of Bobby Finch just 3 minutes after it happened. Hackie called Reggie to give him the news and Reggie already knew. Hackie said, “how do you know” about this this it just happened 3 or 4 minutes ago. In the case of Bobby Finch either Wright had a tremendous information network or he was behind the murder. Here again Wright either has a tremendous network or he has something to do with this.
My mind was racing. I remembered that the corrupt Compton Police Department had been absorbed into the Sheriff’s Department instead of being disbanded and that corruption had festered and expanded. I thought about the inside information that Russell and I had learned that an off-duty Sheriff had let the shooters into the nightclub on the August 24th, 2014, the night Suge Knight was shot and had driven them to LAX the next day. There was a time when I was distrusting of everybody in law enforcement and I was sure that I needed to leave town. Wright’s intimation was that anyone that continues to investigate him is going to end up dead.
Some of what Wright had to say was right on the money. Some of what he was saying was misinformation. Russell Poole was not meeting with Suge Knight! Russell was not meeting with the female investigator that Reggie Wright Jr. referenced. He was talking to the Sheriff’s about the Tupac and Biggie murders trying to get an investigator within the department interested in looking into these murders. The Sheriff’s investigator had contacted Russell the day before the meeting to get a general sense of the subject matter and Russell told them about knowing that an off-duty Sheriff had been caught on videotape opening the door for the two shooters at the 1Oak club in West Hollywood and that the same off-duty Sheriff had been caught on videotape dropping the shooters off at LAX. The investigator was surprised that Russell had obtained the information and according to Russell he confirmed that the information was true. What made Russell think that the Sheriff’s were the logical choice was the fact that they control Suge Knight and that they have two very challenging cases – one where Suge was the victim and one where Suge is the suspect. The odds of a successful prosecution of Suge Knight, in light of all the evidence that we have, is slim at best. Information about bungling the investigations of both of those crimes is going to come to light especially with attorney Tom Mesereau on Suge Knight’s defense team. Russell then said, “look you have two dog cases that are going to cause the department embarrassment and you have the two biggest mysteries in music history that could make the department shine. Why not cut a deal with Suge now while you have influence over him to get him to cooperate with bringing the killers of Tupac and Biggie to justice.” After the telephone call Russell called me and relayed all of the information to me. He was genuinely excited about going to the meeting the following morning because he felt there was going to be movement in the case.
What Reggie Wright Jr. is right about is the jurisdiction issues that were discussed and I only learned that yesterday (August 20, 2015), when I received a telephone call from the investigator and Jim McDonnell.
Both of them called me to offer their condolences and to let me know what had happened. Apparently at the end of the meeting, Russell had begun to feel distressed and paramedics were called. They did everything they could for him but he passed away. Think about all of the safest places to have a heart attack. I would rate Sheriff HQ as the second safest place because there are so many people around that are trained in CPR. There is no way that Russell should have died on the 19th at Sheriff HQ of a heart attack – he should have survived. But that isn’t the case as we all know.
The call from Jim and the investigator was very heart felt and I appreciated it tremendously. We had a ten-minute call. I made it clear that I am a civilian and that I did not expect them to share with me anything they are doing or not doing on an investigation. The investigator brought up the jurisdiction issues that Reggie Wright Jr. talked about on his Bomb1st interview in almost the same way. I asked the investigator, “why Reggie Wright Jr. had sensitive information about the cases just minutes after the meeting happened?” He told me that information had to have come from Russell as he was probably talking to everybody about this. I called bullshit! I told him that Russell and I had made a pact to not discuss this with anyone and that there must be a leak at the department.
Russell was adamant that in order to actually let investigators do their jobs there had to be a willingness to investigate and we needed to give those investigators every opportunity of success. So there was clearly no leak from Russell.
So there are still unanswered questions about this and as always we only want the truth wherever that leads. How does Reggie know intimate details about what goes on inside of the Sheriff’s Department HQ? I can probably guess as his father and many of the officers Wright has known since he was a child were absorbed into the Sheriff’s that this gives him many information sources. He could have heard about it minutes after the meeting or he could have heard about it after the investigator talked to Russell the day before. We are living in a different era as Lee Baca had told me, “nobody is working anymore, they’re all on their cell phones.” Social media, texting, voice messaging has changed the game. The investigator could have immediately called Wright or it could be innocent and he could have conveyed that Poole was coming in to a colleague who shared it with someone that shared it with someone until somebody called Wright.
Sheriff Sherman Block did some great things for the community and the Sheriff’s Department. He set up youth programs that continue until this day. Lee Baca expanded those programs. They give the Sheriff’s a deep reach into the community to avert problems before they happen and to deal quickly with problems when they do occur because of that reach. Jim McDonnell now sits in leadership over the Sheriff’s and he understands the importance of his department’s connection with the youth. He encourages his officers to talk to the youth and simply ask them how they are doing – to let them know that somebody cares about them – and as he said on the 22nd, when he spoke to Leadership LA’s Alumnus, “it doesn’t cost a dime and it may be the only person this year who shows they care.”
Lee Baca pointed out to me, “In all of the years of the African-American Community doing demonstrations against the police, there has never been a demonstration against the LA County Sheriff’s Department.” He credits the youth programs.
I once ran a company with 100 employees. There were 100 headaches. You multiply that by 18,000 and you begin to understand the tremendous responsibility Sherman Block, Lee Baca, and Jim McDonnell have shouldered. While Baca was at the Sheriff’s Department he expanded the responsibility to include the MTA and Community Colleges. McDonnell walked into the 2nd largest police force in the nation right behind NYPD.
Russell’s father was a Sheriff. Lee Baca gave the eulogy at Russell’s Father’s funeral less than six months ago. Russell was excited that there would finally be traction in this case. He had a vision for solving it. That vision did include Suge Knight but not as Reggie misrepresented that Russ had been meeting with Suge. Suge is under a protective order and cannot have meetings with civilians. So there was no way Russell could have met with Suge. No, Russell’s vision for solving the case hinged on the integrity of the majority of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s who are hard working honest people that put their lives on the line every day. Russell previously worked with Jim McDonnell when they were both at LAPD and he had a tremendous respect for McDonnell.
He knew that McDonnell was going to root out the corruption that exists within the Sheriff’s. With 18,000 employees there is no way to control every single employee who takes an extra fifty or hundred-dollar-bill from a bust but there are standards to apply that give the Sheriff’s a whole new opportunity to be seen a whole lot different than they have been seen before and McDonnell is setting the bar high. He chose not to clean house when he arrived so that any whose enthusiasm had waned would have the opportunity to “get their heads back into the game.”
His 3.2 Billion Dollar budget seems like a lot but when you think about the facilities, vehicles, and personnel it doesn’t take long to soak up that budget. So McDonnell must find solutions to problems that don’t require money. Getting his 18,000 employees heads all in the game will multiply his reach within the department but it will also multiply his reach into Los Angeles.
Russell, the man that investigated the Rampart Scandal and made LAPD police corruption public, believed in this vision. He believed Sheriff’s are in the right place to solve this case and in spite of the jurisdiction issues he believed they should be handed the baton. He believed in Sheriff Jim McDonnell. That is why he was at the Sheriff’s Department Headquarters taking a meeting with a homicide investigator.
I share Russell’s vision for this case and his support for the Sheriff’s department. Can I say for certainty that someone there didn’t give him something tainted? No, I can’t! But I can also say that even though Russell was hiking six miles a day that he was overeating and upon occasion I had partaken in a few too many alcoholic beverages with him. He was starting to make life changes and he had just begun to eat better, drink less, and I noticed a new excitement in his voice. Some of those changes may have been changing his body chemistry to where he needed to adjust his blood pressure medication. Keep in mind he was planning on seeing his doctor the next day.
I sent a message to Sheriff Jim McDonnell thanking him for his telephone call yesterday and saying how much it meant to me that he personally reached out. I also said, “Russell’s ghost will haunt the new HQ to root out any and all corruption… He is now your partner from the other side.”So there Russell was working on a case – doing what he loved! The new Sheriff’s facility was only opened a short time before Russell walked through those doors armed with information that he felt would solve the case. He was bringing resolution to something that had eaten at him for 19 years. In the heat of battle, this Knight of Malta, was taken on the field of battle. He lived a life of honor and he died a hero’s death at the most important law enforcement facility in Los Angeles. This was a magnificent death for an American Patriot who added his blood to the millions of others that have contributed to building a “more perfect union.” Goodbye friend, I will miss you!!!
Read Russell Poole's final words on #Tupac & #Biggie murders