Friday the 13th in Vegas: The Death of Tupac Shakur

Posted on July 11, 2018

For centuries, Friday the 13th has been considered a morbid day of misfortune. The day has seen, at different points in time and in different countries, countless examples of suffering and tragedy. Fatal accidents, massive natural disasters, stock market crashes, executions, and ruthless murders have all occurred on a Friday the 13th.

Here in Las Vegas, in 1996, it was a Friday the 13th that marked the end of the iconic rapper and poet Tupac Shakur’s life. Below is a look into Tupac’s life, death, and the aftermath… and how he relates to Vegas, Friday the 13th, and the paranormal.


The Life of Tupac

“In my death, people will understand what I was talking about.”
—Tupac Shakur

Tupac’s Early Life

Tupac Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in Harlem, New York on June 16, 1971. After his mother joined the Black Panther Party, she changed his first name to Tupac Amaru in honor of a revolutionary. His last name, Shakur, came from his sister Sekiya’s father, Mutulu Shakur. Mutulu Shakur was also a Black Panther.

Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, became pregnant with her son in 1970, while on bail for being charged with conspiracy to bombing. She was acquitted in 1971, after she defended herself in court successfully. Evidently, she must’ve passed down her effective language and communication skills to her famous son.

Tupac’s biological father, Billy Garland, was also a Panther, but was estranged from his son. From the age of five until 23, Tupac didn’t see his father. This absence had an undeniable impact on him. Tupac confirmed as much during an interview given the year of his death: “I felt I needed a daddy to show me the ropes and I didn’t have one.”

Tupac’s family life wasn’t the easiest, either. His mother was left alone to raise two children. The family was under financial strain and had to frequently move. At times, these moves meant having to stay in homeless shelters. After moving to Marin City, California, Tupac’s mother Afeni became addicted to crack cocaine. Their new neighborhood was difficult and dangerous, but because of his love for music, Tupac was kept from crime longer than his peers in the area.

One fateful day in Spring 1989, a 17-year-old Tupac had a chance encounter with a woman, Leila Steinberg. The two had started talking about Winnie Mandela. By the end of their conversation, Tupac had convinced the woman to become his manager.

Tupac’s Career, in Brief

Steinberg, though unexperienced, introduced Tupac to manager Atron Gregory. Through this meeting, Tupac landed a fruitful opportunity: being a dancer and roadie for Digital Underground, a hip-hop group under Gregory’s management. This marked the start of the rapper’s whirlwind career as 2Pac.

In 1991, he debuted his first recorded verse with a feature on Digital Underground’s “Same Song”. Soon after, Gregory became Tupac’s new manager, and Tupac secured a record deal with Interscope Records. His first album, 2pacalypse Now, was released in November 1991.

From 1992 until 1995, Tupac dealt with legal issues related to guns and assault. Most of these issues were debatably misunderstandings, though not all were viewed as such in the eyes of the law. Tupac served time in 1994 for an assault charge, and in 1995 for a sexual assault charge.

In November 1994, Tupac was shot multiple times in a Manhattan recording studio by two men. No one was ever charged for this shooting, though it is believed that Biggie Smalls, Tupac’s East Coast rival, had hired the shooters.

Death Row Records

During Tupac’s 1995 prison sentence, Suge Knight, co-founder and president of Death Row Records, visited Tupac. Knight offered to post all $1.3 million of Tupac’s bail in exchange for the rapper signing onto Death Row Records. Tupac agreed to the deal, and was released from prison in October 1995.

While signed to Death Row, Tupac engaged in philanthropic efforts: financing a center for at-risk youth; setting up a hotline for young people in need of help, and sponsoring sports teams in South Central L.A. Of course, these efforts weren’t brought to the public forefront as much as his gangster image and reputation were… especially during the Death Row era.

Tupac supported his own “bad boy” image by firing (figuratively) at 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.

Over the course of his short-yet-prolific career, Tupac released 5 studio albums. That’s not even counting the 7 albums released after his death, which used unreleased recorded material.

The Shooting

A Google Maps view of the intersection of where the shooting of Tupac occurred.
A Google Maps view of the intersection of where the shooting occurred. Photo source.

A boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand brought Tupac to Vegas in support of Tyson, a friend of his. Of course, he wasn’t in the city unaccompanied; an entourage from Death Row Records, including Suge Knight, tagged along.

Tupac in the MGM Grand casino on September 7, 1996.
Tupac in the MGM Grand casino on September 7, 1996. Photo source.

After the match ended, Tupac and his entourage got into a fight with a member of the Crips gang, Orlando Anderson, in the MGM Grand’s lobby. Shakur started the fight by punching Anderson. Anderson was affiliated with the South Side Crips, while Shakur and Knight were affiliated with the Mob Piru Bloods, a rival gang. Anderson was beaten and kicked on the ground by Shakur’s entourage. Following the fight, Anderson refused medical treatment, didn’t file a report, and left for the Strip.

Hours later, Tupac and Knight then left the MGM around 11 p.m. and headed to nightclub Club 662. En route, a white Cadillac pulled up at the stoplight next to Knight’s BMW. The two cars were stopped at the intersection of Flamingo and Koval.

The Cadillac’s occupant(s) shot a barrage of bullets at the BMW.

Chris Carroll, a now-retired sergeant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department who was the first responder to the shooting, recounted the grisly scene as follows:

“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.”

The Cadillac then disappeared into the thick Saturday night traffic on the Strip.

Though Knight only incurred relatively minor injuries from the shooting, Tupac was horribly maimed. He was rushed to University Medical Center, a Las Vegas hospital, in critical condition. He underwent several surgeries. During one surgery, surgeons removed his right lung, which forced him to be placed on a respirator and other life-support machines. Doctors also put him into an induced coma.

Four bullets hit Tupac, with two in his chest. His chest wounds severely damaged his organs. He suffered consistent internal bleeding for at least two days straight, despite the doctors’ best efforts to stop the bleeding.

The Death of Tupac

On Friday, September 13, 1996, six days after the shooting, Tupac succumbed to his injuries. He was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m. His death was the result of respiratory failure and heart arrest. He was 25.

His death was met with widespread sorrow from his fans. Rap and hip-hop radio stations, especially those in California, played his albums as tribute the day his death was confirmed.

Since his death, dozens of guesses as to who killed him have been theorized by fans, analysts, and those in the rap and hip-hop community. Virtually an entire mini-genre of books, articles, documentaries, sites, and movies has been produced to eulogize his death, attempt to shine light on the killer(s), or even speculate the true nature of his demise.

Undoubtedly, Tupac has been an influential figure on subsequent rap and hip-hop artists. Old and new fans alike still listen to his many releases and keep his memory alive.

Tupac’s Killer

At the time, no one was sure of who killed Tupac. Per a Los Angeles Times report published the day after his death: “No arrests have been made and police have expressed frustration over the lack of eyewitness details.”

Since then, there have been many theories, including that Suge Knight was somehow involved in Tupac’s death, or that it was planned by Biggie Smalls.

Most recently—as in, just last week—word of who allegedly killed Tupac circulated the media. This media buzz follows the release of a new installment of the documentary/drama series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. 

The series shows a confession from former gang member and self-proclaimed drug kingpin Keffe D. Keffe D claimed that he was in the Cadillac with the killer the night of Tupac’s shooting. Though he said he knows the shooter’s identity, he refused to reveal their name due to “street code”. However, he didn’t outright dismiss the killer being Orlando Anderson, the man who’d been beaten by Tupac, Suge Knight, and their Death Row entourage hours before Tupac’s shooting.

Anderson, Keffe D’s nephew, was in the backseat of the Cadillac along with two other Crips. Keffe D didn’t name names, but said: “It just came from the backseat, bro.”

Why would Keffe D finally say this much now? Because he has cancer and “nothing else to lose.”

Orlando Anderson was killed in a shootout in 1998, also on a Friday (though the 29th, not the 13th). As such, the extent of Anderson’s involvement in Tupac’s death will remain unclear… for now, at least.

Per Chris Carroll 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.”

To this day, there have been no arrests or prosecutions in the ongoing case. Tupac’s death remains one of the most (in)famous unsolved murders in American history, and continues to capture both public imagination and interest.

Is Tupac Still Alive?

Conspiracy theories abound as to whether or not Tupac is actually dead. Theorists assert that his death was faked, most likely by Tupac himself, and that he’s still alive in hiding. Reports of post-death Tupac sightings have placed him as being in Cuba, New Zealand, Tasmania, Los Angeles, Sweden, New Jersey, Boston, and/or Somalia.

Given these murky stories and his ever-changing supposed whereabouts, it is unlikely that Tupac is still alive, at least in the conventional sense.

It is, however, entirely possible that his spirit lives on—namely, as a presence that frequents at least one Vegas attraction.

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 Strip, including the place where Tupac’s presence is known to linger.

 

Works Cited

Capatides, Christina. “Celebrity Death Scenes.” CBS News – Breaking News, Live News Stream 24×7, CBS Interactive Inc., 22 Apr. 2016, www.cbsnews.com/pictures/celebrity-death-scenes/6/.

DeFrank, Sean. “The Last Words of Tupac Shakur.” Vegas Seven, 15 Feb. 2017, vegasseven.com/2014/05/21/last-words-tupac-shakur/.

Hart, Gabby, and KSNV Staff. “First Officer on Scene of Tupac’s Death Recalls His Last Words, Speaks on New Revelations.” KSNV, 9 July 2018, news3lv.com/news/local/first-officer-on-tupacs-death-recalls-rappers-last-words-speaks-on-new-revelations.

Hilburn, Robert, and Jerry Crowe. “Rapper Tupac Shakur, 25, dies 6 days after Las Vegas shooting.” Los Angeles Times, 14 Sept. 1996, www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-tupac-shakur-obit-20160913-snap-story.html.

Kaufman, Gil. “Uncle of Prime Suspect in Tupac’s Death Claims to Know Identity of Rapper’s Murderer.” Billboard, 3 July 2018, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8463914/tupac-shakur-murder-uncle-suspect-knows-killer.

Pous, Terri. “Tupac Shakur Dies: September 13, 1996 | Six Freaky Things That Happened on Friday the 13th.” TIME.com, Time Inc., 13 July 2012, newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/13/six-freaky-things-that-happened-on-friday-the-13th/slide/tupac-shot-in-las-vegas-september-13-1996/.

“Tupac Shakur Biography.” Famous Biographies & TV Shows, A&E Television Networks, July 2018, www.biography.com/people/tupac-shakur-206528.

“Tupac Shakur Discography.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 10 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupac_Shakur_discography.

WCMH web staff. “Is Tupac Dead or Alive? Alleged Sightings Fuel Conspiracy Theories After 22 Years.” WKRN, Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., 25 June 2018, www.wkrn.com/news/is-tupac-dead-or-alive-alleged-sightings-fuel-conspiracy-theories-after-22-years/1261677816.