Friday the 13th in Vegas: The Death of Tupac Shakur
A lot of strange things have happened on Friday the 13th. Long considered an auspicious day of bad luck. For example, Sam Patch Leapt to his death, conducting a stunt off the Genesee Falls in New York, 1829. Tragic accidents have happened, unpredictable natural disasters, perhaps more predictable financial crashes on the stock exchanges, people have been executed, but they were probably expecting that, and many murders have been committed on Friday’s, all on the 13th of a month.
Iconic rapper and poet Tupac Shakur’s life also ended on Friday the 13th of September 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this post, we will look into Tupac’s life, his untimely death, and reports of his afterlife… and how these tragic events relate to Las Vegas lore and History, and the paranormal.
The Life of Tupac
“In my death, people will understand what I was talking about.”
born Lesane Parish Crooks in the New York borough of Harlem, in mid-1971. His mother was inspired to change her infant’s name to Tupac Amaru in honor of an Incan revolutionary after joining the Black Panther Party. Tupac’s last name came from the name of his half sister’s father, Mutulu Shakur, also a Black Panther.
Quite the active participant in the uprising of awareness, Tupac’s mother, was pregnant with her son while on bail, in 1970, the charge for Afeni Shakur was conspiracy to bomb. Acquitted in 1971, after she successfully defended herself at trial. Her eloquence and communication skills evidently were passed down to her rapper son.
Billy Garland was another Black Panther, Tupac’s estranged biological father. Billy did not see his son from the age of five until he was 23. Tupac confirmed the absence of his father had an impact on him as much during a later interview, in fact during the year of his assassination: “I felt I needed a daddy to show me the ropes and I didn’t have one.”
Tupac’s mother raised two children basically alone, life was not easy for the family. Under near-constant financial strain and frequently on the move because of it. Tupac recalled several stays in homeless shelters for short periods of time.
After moving across the country to Northern California they landed in a new neighborhood that was difficult and dangerous, drugs were rife in the town in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Tupac’s mother succumbed to a crack cocaine addiction. Like so many, music was a refuge and Tupac was kept away from crime a bit longer than many of his peers.
A 17-year-old Tupac met Leila Steinberg, a music industry novice. It was a fateful meeting after a conversation about Winnie Mandela led to heartfelt confessions by both of them. A bond of sorts was formed, and within short order, Tupac had convinced the Leia to become his manager, one of the few female managers in Rap at that time.
Tupac’s Career, in Brief
Following an inspired introduction by Leila Steinberg of Tupac to established music industry manager Atron Gregory Tupac landed a great opportunity. He became a roadie and dancer for a hip-hop group Gregory was managing; Digital Underground. This marked the start of the Tupac Shakur’s whirlwind career as 2Pac.
He recorded his first verse in 1991, a one verse feature on a track called “Same Song” by Digital Underground. Atron Gregory spotted the talent almost immediately and replaced Leila as Tupac’s manager. He secured a record deal with Interscope Records. Releasing his first album, 2pacalypse Now, in November 1991 to critical acclaim and massive underground success.
Tupac was dogged with legal issues concerning the possession of guns and physical assault charges. Most of these issues, from 1992 until mid 1995, were debatably misunderstandings, although the eyes of the law did not view all of them this way. Tupac spent two small stretches in jail, in 1994 for an assault charge, and in 1995 for a charge of first-degree sexual abuse.
While all that was going on, in November 1994, Tupac was shot multiple times while recording in a Manhattan studio. Two men burst in and opened fire. Though it is believed that Tupac’s East Coast rival, a rapper and entrepreneur named Biggie Smalls who hired the assailants, no one was ever charged for this crime.
Death Row Records
Suge Knight, president of Death Row Records and co-founder, paid an unexpected visit to Tupac during 1995 prison sentence. Suge offered to post $1.3 million dollars of bail on behalf of Tupac, the only requirement was that Tupac would sign onto Death Row Records. Tupac hastily agreed to the deal, and walking from jail shortly after.
Death Row proved to be a fertile home for the talents of Tupac, outside a meteoric career in music he also engaged in philanthropic efforts: he financed a center for at-risk youth; he also set up a telephone hotline for young people in need. He also sponsored community athletic teams in South Central L.A.
His philanthropy was not in the media as much as his self-made image as a gangster… especially during his time signed to Death Row records.
This image was created in the rap media and also in verse, Tupac fired (figuratively) aggressive lyrics at his perceived rivals on Bad Boy Records. In June 1996, he released “Hit ‘Em Up” to diss Biggie Smalls and Sean “Puffy” Combs (now best known as “Diddy”). The West Coast vs. East Coast rap war was in full swing. How much this rivalry was fabricated to generate very lucrative press interest in the warring factions is unknown.
Tupac released 5 studio albums during his prolific career, selling over 75 million copies of those and the 7 albums that were released after his death, using unreleased material.
The tragic, early death of Tupac Shakur took place in Las Vegas, the occasion was a boxing bout between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip. Tupac and Tyson, were friends. Tupac brought a large entourage of friends and hangers-on, including Suge Knight, this was a big event for the posse.
After Mike Tyson scored a controversial technical knockout in the boxing match, an elated Tupac and his entourage saw a member of the rival LA Crips gang, Mr. Orlando Anderson, in the lobby of the MGM Grand. Shakur was filmed starting the fight by punching Anderson. The complex affiliations among LA gangs aligned Shakur and Knight with the Mob Piru Bloods. Anderson was affiliated with the South Side Crips, Anderson took a brutal beating and was repeatedly kicked on the ground by Shakur’s entourage. Anderson however refused hospital treatment, didn’t file a police report, and soon left the MGM, bound for the Strip.
Tupac and Knight gambled and drank slowly, then left the MGM grand around 11 p.m., heading next for the nightclub named ‘Club 662’. While driving to the club in Suge Knight’s black 7 series BMW, a white Cadillac pulled alongside at the traffic lights. The stoplight was at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane.
The Cadillac’s occupant(s) shot a barrage of bullets into the BMW with a Glock semi-automatic.
A now-retired police sergeant named Chris Carroll, with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was one of the first responders at the shooting, he recounts the grisly scene:
“He’s covered with blood, and I immediately notice that the guy’s got a ton of gold on — a necklace and other jewelry — and all of the gold is covered in blood. That has always left an image in my mind. . . After I pulled him out, Suge starts yelling at him, ‘Pac! Pac!’ And he just keeps yelling it. And the guy I’m holding is trying to yell back at him. He’s sitting up and he’s struggling to get the words out, but he can’t really do it. And as Suge is yelling ‘Pac!,’ I look down and I realize that this is Tupac Shakur.”
As for the Cadillac, it had disappeared into the flow of heavy traffic heading towards the Las Vegas Strip.
Suge Knight was lucky enough to only escape with minor injuries after the shooting, Tupac however suffered significant injuries and was horribly maimed and as Sergeant Carrol described, bleeding heavily. He was taken by ambulance to the University Medical Center. Several surgeries we performed on him over the subsequent hours. During one, surgeons were forced to remove on of his lungs, meaning he needed to be placed on a respirator. Doctors then needed to put him in an induced coma.
Tupac’s wounds came from the four bullets that entered his body. Two were in his chest severely damaging several of his internal organs. Internal bleeding lasted for two days straight, despite the doctors’ best efforts they were unable to stop the bleeding.
The Death of Tupac
He was pronounced dead at 4:03pm on Friday, September 13, 1996. He was 25 years old. The final cause was respiratory failure and heart arrest. He lasted six days from the assassination on Flamingo and Koval, but never regained consciousness.
News of his death was met with mourning and grief across the world. His fans especially hard hit, many saw it as just another gang death, not aware of the importance of Tupac as a figurehead for a generation of disaffected youth. Rap radio stations, especially in California, put his albums on repeat as a tribute on the day his death was announced.
In the years since his death was announced, theories about who, and why he was killed have blossomed like mushrooms, fans, analysts, and those music communities have long searched for answers. Tupac death theories have become a mini-genre of articles, books, documentaries, web sites, and movies. Have investigated, theorized, and put forward speculative answers. has been produced to eulogize his death, and try to find the identity of the killer(s). Doubts about the circumstances of his death have also been promoted, with some theories belonging firmly in the realm of fiction.
There was no doubt Tupac was and still is an influential figure for a wide spectrum of artists both in the rap community and further afield. His impact from beyond the grave continues to grow and his legend has perhaps become more powerful than his life.
The official investigation into the events of Friday the 13th of September 1996 was inconclusive. No one was sure who killed Tupac. The Los Angeles Times reported the day after his death: “No arrests have been made and police have expressed frustration over the lack of eyewitness details.” Anti-police sentiment, embodied in Street code, and partly the reason Orland Anderson declined medical treatment and did not file charges, street justice finds it’s own way.
Since then, theories circulated include the involvement of Suge Knight, somehow… or that it was planned by Biggie Smalls but executed by someone else.
February 27, 2018 saw the release of perhaps the first significant new information. The Netflix release of an explosive new documentary series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.
The well-researched series contains the first-hand testimony of many of the people involved, some 24 years later. The documentary contains an explosive confession from a self-proclaimed drug dealer, and former gang Keffe D. He claims he was a passenger in the White Cadillac SUV and was with the killer the night Tupac was assassinated. Keefe D. claims he knows the shooter’s identity, yet he refuses to reveal their identity due to “street code”. He didn’t deny outright that the killer was Orlando Anderson, the man beaten by Tupac, Suge Knight, and their Death Row entourage at the MCM Grand just hours before the shooting.
Orlando Anderson was Keffe D’s nephew and claims he was in the backseat of the Cadillac with two other members of the Crips gang. Although Keffe D declined to name names, he said cryptically: “It just came from the backseat, bro.”
Why now? What has changed to make Keffe D come forward and finally break his silence now? He was diagnosed with cancer and claimed he had “nothing else to lose.”
As for the prime suspect in the case, Orlando Anderson, he was killed in a gang-related shooting in the year 1998, also on a Friday, but not the 13th, the 29th. The extent of Orlando Anderson’s complicity in Tupac Shakur’s death will, for now, remain unclear.
Chris Carroll of the Los Angeles Times again:
“We have all known[—]law enforcement, the gang community, the streets, everyone knows Orlando Anderson was the shooter, in this case, we have known that for years. Unfortunately, he himself was murdered shortly after the Tupac murder.”
Is Tupac Still Alive?
There are many conspiracy theories about the final resting place, if any, of Tupac. Many claim he is not actually dead. The most common theory is that Tupac and his entourage faked the death and that he has been in near-perfect hiding, despite being a celebrity, with a well-known and distinctive face. Sightings of the in-hiding Tupac abound, coming from places as far afield as Cuba, New Zealand, Tasmania, Los Angeles, Sweden, New Jersey, Boston, and/or Somalia.
Reality suggests it is unlikely that Tupac is alive, at least in the conventional sense. His spirit lives on in his music for sure, but it is, entirely possible that his spirit lives on—namely, as a presence that frequents his last haunts on this earth.
Interested in learning more about Tupac’s paranormal relationship with Vegas? Consider joining us on our nightly Vegas Ghosts tour. We visit the most haunted sites on the Vegas Strip, including the place where Tupac’s presence is known to linger.
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