by Michael Douglas Carlin
Suge Knight was targeted in 1996 at the shooting of Tupac Shakur (Knight was also in the car) and he has been targeted ever since. 1Oak’s video surveillance reveals that the shooters who shot Suge Knight on August 24th, 2014 specifically were looking to kill Suge Knight. According to Keith Middlebrook, a witness of the shooting, the shooters yelled, “You killed Tupac,” as they shot Suge Knight. Suge Knight had every reason to fear his life was in jeopardy… but why?
Both the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls have been blamed on Suge Knight. His reputation was based upon rumors that Suge allowed to grow over time that he was a thug that kills some people and intimidates others. Suge obtained legendary status in the music industry – an industry known for corruption.
Suge Knight accomplished something no one else ever could building a record label from scratch with Bloods and Crips coexisting. How long could he keep the peace? His overblown reputation was one of the keys to him being able to keep the peace. The artists were all gangsters creating gangster rap and Suge Knight kept them all working in spite of deep rooted differences. Suge Knight occasionally pistol whipped someone that got out of line and he ruled with an iron fist. He had no choice but the results speak for themselves.
Suge drove sales into the hundreds of millions of dollars and built a record label that was worth over $500,000,000. The Chronic, Doggystyle, Dogg Food, All Eyez on Me, The Don Killuminati, Death Row Greatest Hits, Above the Rim, Murder Was the Case, Gridlock’d, and Gang Related were all albums released by Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. Those albums took lots of studio time, engineering, marketing, and promotion. Everybody assumes incorrectly that all of Death Row Records was partying and drama but there was a tremendous amount of work that made Death Row such a valuable label. Suge Knight knew the game and he drove Gangster Rap to a new level. But only his reputation, much of which was overblown, painted him as a thug executive. To get an idea how Suge Knight’s reputation grew with stories that are larger than life we go back to the beginning.
Suge Knight represented rapper Chocolate that wrote songs for Vanilla Ice. The story goes that Suge Knight dangled Vanilla Ice off a hotel balcony to get him to pay up. The real story is that Suge may have intimidated Vanilla Ice but that attorneys, contracts, and payments were made to settle the dispute. Did Suge take Vanilla Ice out on to the balcony to negotiate? Probably. He, no doubt, made reference to the height and Vanilla Ice felt threatened. As the story began to grow, Suge Knight did little to quash it. By the time the story was recorded in rap history it was that Suge dangled Vanilla Ice over the balcony, 15 floors up, with change falling out of Vanilla Ice's pockets at the Belage Hotel in West Hollywood.
The story of Suge intimidating Eazy-E into signing away artists Michel’le, Dr. Dre, and The D.O.C. included Suge approaching Eazy with thugs and baseball bats. One story was that Jerry Heller was held hostage. Here again there were contracts and Ruthless Records actually took 15% off the top of the revenue from Death Row Records and Suge Knight obtained rights to the name NWA as part of that settlement.
The story of the exit of Dr. Dre included Dre being shot in the leg and thugs stealing his masters. The hype was way overblown but the rumors were galvanized into the minds of fans. The reality was that contracts were drafted and a settlement was made. Jimmy Iovine had encouraged Dre to leave Death Row Records and since he was the distributor for Death Row he had the power to keep things relatively calm. In fact, as part of that settlement, Dre was signed to a lifetime management contract with Suge Knight as his manager.
Russell Poole was among the first but certainly the loudest to proclaim that Suge Knight was responsible for the murders of Tupac and Biggie. His source for this information was a 1998 leaked Los Angeles Sheriff’s report that Snoop had been rescued by Sheriff’s from an attack by Bloods and that he said Suge Knight was behind Tupac Shakur’s death. The details of this are available in Chaos Merchants, the book Russell Poole and I were working on at the time of Poole’s Death. Poole was adamant that every single fact be footnoted for the investigators and Chaos Merchants has links to sources.
The picture that began to emerge for Poole, in writing Chaos Merchants, was that Suge Knight had nothing to do with Tupac’s death. Poole had assumed that since Suge Knight was the sole shareholder of Death Row Records and the evidence led to Death Row Records as the responsible party for Tupac’s murder Suge was somehow responsible; Poole failed to separate Death Row Records from Suge Knight. During the Biggie Smalls investigation listening devices were placed in Suge’s cell and his cell was tossed regularly but, according to Poole, nothing was ever found. Additionally, since Suge was in LA County Jail at the time of Biggie's death it would be very hard to prove that Suge had anything to do with it in spite of the implications that Death Row Records affiliates were involved. Remember that Suge no longer was running Death Row Records at the time. Once Russell realized that Suge was a victim the night Tupac was shot, Poole felt bad about his years of being vocal that Suge was behind the murders. Poole, Carlin, and RJ Bond wrote Tupac:187 about the murders. Once that book was released additional clues poured in from fans about the murders. Those clues along with salient details from re-examining the case files Russell took with him from the LAPD led to the condensed version of events that became Chaos Merchants.
The DEA, FBI, and LAPD, spent millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man hours investigating Death Row Records with no indictments or convictions. The truth was that insiders at Death Row Records were behind the murder of Tupac Shakur and attempted murder of Suge Knight. Those insiders were responsible for derailing investigations into crimes associated with Death Row Records. The planning was done by David Kenner, a criminal defense attorney and Reggie Wright Jr., a Justice Administration graduate and former Compton Police Officer. They hired off-duty police to be present when crimes were committed and those investigations were derailed because solving the crimes would lead to damaging the careers of officers. Those implicated in the Rampart Scandal were involved in Death Row Records particularly Rafael Perez, David Mack, and Kevin Gaines. But Kevin Gaines and Suge Knight were not friends. Gaines was dating Sharitha, Suge Knight's estranged wife. That tends to indicate that Suge was not in the loop on the extracurricular activities of the Rampart cops. In spite of that, the crimes of Rampart all trace back through the halls of Death Row Records including the Tupac and Biggie murders. The beating at the El Rey Theater was cleared when Compton Police called over to the investigator and said this was nothing more than a gang thing and weighing the careers of police officers that would suffer from their conflicts of being present when a murder was committed caused the investigator to clear the case without any convictions or even charging anyone with the crime.
Suge liked having the off-duty cops around but he was also wary of them… for good reason. The Rampart corrupt cops along with the corrupt Compton Police were all working for Death Row Records. They along with Reggie Wright Jr., David Kenner, and Crips were involved in toppling Suge Knight. When they failed to kill him in Las Vegas they worked hard to get his probation violated.
Right after the Tupac murder, Suge Knight was discovered living in the Malibu home of the Longo family that exposed a conflict of interest with, Deputy District Attorney, Larry Longo. It was also learned that David Kenner, a friend of Larry Longo had orchestrated the signing of a contract with Gina Longo to elevate the conflict of interest. When this was exposed, Larry Longo lost his job and Suge Knight’s probation was violated but his reputation surged as a person that could bribe a D.A.. That was not a reputation that would serve Suge well in any of his criminal or civil trials... something Kenner would know. On October 22, 1996 Suge was arrested. Longo would be cleared of any wrongdoing because Kenner had rented the home from Longo’s son Frank. Kenner also negotiated Gina’s contract with Frank and Gina, a trained singer, laid down six tracks at CanAm Studios.
With David Kenner in charge of Suge’s probation case and Compton Police complicit in entering evidence against Suge into the court, and in light of his reputation of compromising an Assistant District Attorney, Suge Knight never had a chance at a fair trial. David Kenner entered into evidence the tape of the Orlando Anderson scuffle to put Suge behind bars. By California law Suge Knight could not operate a business so he needed to turn over the operations to others. For the probation violation hearing, Frank Alexander’s statement to Brent Becker was altered and entered into evidence by the Compton Police. Their motive to put Suge Knight behind bars was the theft of millions of dollars from Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. Suge put Reggie Wright Jr. in charge and Reggie and David Kenner looted the record label while Suge was in prison. Is it any surprise that the protective order limiting contact with Suge Knight to only his attorney, David Kenner, was entered in his current murder case by David Kenner after Kenner was fired by Suge Knight? Why do they fear what Suge will say? They know what Suge Knight knows.
The murders in the immediate aftermath of the Tupac murder were to take out witnesses. The murders at the time Suge Knight was going to be released from prison included Suge Knight’s inner circle. They wanted to make sure Suge would not have protection once he was released. Suge was one of the only people that knew the truth about what had happened at Death Row Records. He was a liability and loose end. His life is still constantly in danger especially in control of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs with their many existing ties to the former Compton Police Department that were instrumental in sending Suge Knight to prison.
While Suge Knight was in prison for the probation violation the Compton Police had been found to be corrupt. A gun, booked into evidence by the Compton Police, found its way into Death Row Records being run by the son of Compton Gang Lead, Reggie Wright. That gun was used to shoot Long Beach Police Officer, Brian Watt. In the civil suit both Reggie Wright Sr. and Jr. were deposed. The City of Compton reached an out of court settlement but the damage was done. There was an internal investigation into the Compton Police Department and it uncovered lots of missing cocaine and weapons. The result was that the Compton Police, who should have been disbanded, were absorbed into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department. The corrupt officers were sworn in as Sheriff’s.
When Suge got out of prison he was handed back a mere shell of a company. There were lots of lawsuits and complications that led him into bankruptcy. Mired in the legal system Suge Knight failed to regain the stature he once held. But the threats to Suge Knight continued.
What has never been disclosed before is that when I interviewed Long Beach Police Chief, Jim McDonnell for the article, “Taking the Blinders Off of Justice” I disclosed to him the existence of the confession letter and told him what I was working on. He campaigned and became the Sheriff after that meeting. I set up the meeting for Russell Poole with the Sheriff's through Sheriff Jim McDonnell. He was the first law enforcement representative to learn of the confession letter in March of 2014. In June of 2014, RJ Bond and Russell Poole visited with four members of the Los Angeles Police Department and provided them with the clue to the murder of Tupac Shakur and attempted murder of Suge Knight in 1996. In 1998, a confession letter had been given to respected journalist Chris Blatchford and that detailed the plot against Suge Knight. Russell hoped that, with the element of surprise on the side of LAPD, the shooters could be brought in for questioning. He mapped out for LAPD how he thought they should proceed. A copy of the letter was given to them but RJ was smart and he put a special border on the letter. On August 18th the letter was leaked on the Internet and the leaked letter contained the special border. LAPD was caught cold leaking the letter. LAPD had chosen to leak the letter instead of investigating it. Suge Knight may have a cause of action against LAPD for failing to investigate a crime perpetrated against him.
Six days after the leak of the confession letter, Suge Knight was lured down to the 1Oak Nightclub in West Hollywood. Russell would later learn that an off-duty Sheriff let the shooters in the club and drove them to the airport the next day. Why West Hollywood? Because the Sheriff’s would respond there and the response could be managed by remnants of the former Compton Police Department that still had deep ties into the Sheriff’s. On August 24th, Suge Knight was shot six times but survived the attack. Remember, this shooting occurred just six days after the Tupac confession letter was leaked by LAPD and the shooters yelled at Knight as they shot, “You killed Tupac!” The off-duty Sheriff has ties to the music industry. To this day, in spite of 37 cameras in the club, nobody has been charged with the crime. Most of the eyewitnesses were turned out of the club that night instead of getting their contact information for later follow-up - which is a deviation of standard procedure in any investigation.
Why was Suge going to Tam’s? Apparently Suge Knight was owed money from the Apple Beats Deal. Suge Knight signed a lifetime deal to manage Dr. Dre. He may have had a legitimate claim to some of the Beats money. Court never seemed to work out for Suge Knight. Perhaps he was sending word to Dre to work things out with him.
To further complicate things, Suge Knight also had a legitimate claim to monies from the budget of Straight Outta Compton. He was owed money for use of his likeness and he also had acquired the rights to the name “NWA” that was used in the movie. He had three solid claims of money he was owed. Having just been shot six times at 1Oak he was on edge coming to Compton that was known for danger and violence. Terry Carter, a well respected member of the community and brother of one of the original 16 founders of the Piru’s had invited Suge Knight down to Compton to work out a deal with Dr. Dre. According to former Mayor of Compton, Omar Bradley, Suge Knight was guaranteed safety for his meeting. Terry Carter’s word was a pass that should have been honored by everybody in Compton. Suge Knight was brought down to Compton by Terry Carter to broker peace. The video only shows us four men approaching Knight. We can’t see what is behind him but a witness placed Jimmy Chrys with a gun and other men with automatic weapons behind Suge Knight's truck. After Suge Knight runs over Terry Carter and Cle “Bone” Sloan there is a gun picked up off of Bone’s body before he is moved and the gun is put into the waistband of one of the men. Only a gun gets put into a waistband. Cle Bone says he was punching Suge Knight so Knight was admittedly attacked. If the gun was in one of Cle Bone’s hands Suge could have been facing potential bullets inside his truck. Suge backs up. With armed men behind him it gives Suge Knight every reason to pull forward to escape certain death. This incident happened only five months after Suge Knight was shot six times. He may have been understandably jumpy.
Can Suge get a fair trial? He hasn't been treated fairly so far. He has been prosecuted, not on the merits of this case, but on the larger than life rumors of what he is alleged to have done... None of which has ever been proven in a court of law.
Suge Knight’s current legal case was one of the reasons Russell Poole was coming down to the Sheriff’s station. Russell believed it was a conflict of interest having Richard Biddle handling both crime scenes because in one case you have Suge Knight as a victim and nobody is brought to justice and the other case Knight is initially a victim and becomes the suspect of Terry Carter’s murder. There is a clear pattern here. In June of 2014, the LAPD failed to prosecute or investigate the attempted murder of Suge Knight that according to the confession letter began as a conspiracy in Balboa Park in September of 1996. Sheriff’s fail to prosecute the shooters that attempted to kill Suge Knight at 1Oak on August 24th 2014. Could it also be that Suge Knight was lured to Tam’s in Compton because the perpetrators knew that Sheriff’s would respond to that location too? Why is Suge only ambushed in place where Sheriff’s respond? Remember also that the rumor that Suge Knight was behind the murder of Tupac was leaked by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s. Compton Police that worked hard to get Suge’s probation violated still maintain very strong ties into the Sheriff’s.
Could it be that the bail is originally set at 25 million dollars and the protective order put in place to stop Suge Knight from talking about the police corruption that led to Compton Police, the LAPD, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s? Somebody doesn’t want Suge Knight talking and they hope to banish him the nethermost parts of the prison system for the rest of his life.
Russell Poole was meeting with the Sheriff’s hoping to get them to drop the case against Suge Knight that was going to embarrass the department so that they could reopen the murders of Tupac and Biggie and solve cases that could make the department shine. The murders of Tupac and Biggie always haunted Russell and he was there talking about reopening the cases. The day before the meeting on a telephone call he confirmed with a Sheriff that the shooter’s were let into the 1Oak by an off-duty Sheriff and that the shooters were dropped off at LAX by the same Sheriff the next day. The Sheriff’s were anxious to discover the source of Russell’s information. He arrived at the meeting and instead of just the promised homicide investigator, he was confronted with four Sheriff’s on the Suge Knight case. Russell Poole had a massive heart attack and died in that meeting. He had given his last breath to clear Suge Knight and to solve the Tupac and Biggie murders.