Saturday, Sept. 7, 1996. A hot night in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the passenger seat of a black BMW driven by a record mogul, one of the greatest rappers of the 1990s is bleeding. The 25-year-old has been shot three times after watching Mike Tyson defeat Bruce Seldon in the first round at the MGM Grand casino.
A police officer responds to the 911 call, pulling his weapon has he approaches the BMW. The mogul — a 6-foot-4, 320-pound former University of Las Vegas football player — is already out of the vehicle, bleeding and shouting. Unsure whether he is a threat, the officer forces him to stand down, then opens the passenger door.
The passenger falls out of the car. The man is in bad shape — wincing and groaning.
Dying declaration, the officer thinks. If I get this man to tell me who shot him, it’s admissible in court. It’s not hearsay.
“‘Who shot you?” the officer asks. “What happened? Who did it?”
The next two decades of hip-hop history depend on the answer. If this murder remains unsolved, it will be linked to the murder of another legendary rapper six months later. The L.A. Times will mount a yearlong investigation of the killing in 2002, concluding that the rapper was the victim of an L.A. gang war. A cottage industry of conspiracy theories will spring up. And some will say he is still alive.
The officer waits for the man’s reply.
Tupac Shakur opened his mouth and said: “F— you.”
At least that’s the story told by Chris Carroll, the sergeant on the bike patrol unit who found Shakur in the passenger seat of Marion “Suge” Knight’s car. Carroll recounted the story in a piece written by his cousin for the Las Vegas weekly magazine Vegas Seven:
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the Internet about what happened that night, and it’s almost all wrong,” he says. “I’ve seen TV reports that have said stuff like, ‘This is the investigation that leaves no stone unturned.’ And I always think, ‘Well, they never talked to me.’”
Carroll, who retired in 2010, said he is comfortable speaking about Shakur’s death because he’s no longer on active duty. He also said:
I didn’t want Tupac to be a martyr or hero because he told the cops ‘F— you.’ I didn’t want to give him that. I didn’t want people to say, ‘Even when the chips were down, his life on the line, he still said “F— you,” he still wouldn’t talk to the police.’ I didn’t want him to be a hero for that. And now enough time has passed, well, he’s a martyr anyway; he’s viewed as a hero anyway. My story, at this point, isn’t going to change any of that.
Those interested in another recounting of Shakur’s murder can watch this video re-creation.