NEW YORK, NOV. 30 -- Rapper Tupac Shakur -- the best-selling musician and film star who has been arrested three times on weapons charges and convicted twice of assault, and who is currently awaiting a jury verdict in a Manhattan sexual abuse trial -- was shot five times this morning in Times Square by three unidentified assailants.
Shakur underwent surgery at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, for injuries to his groin. His best-known film role was in last year's "Poetic Justice."
Police said the three men fled on foot after making off with $45,000 in jewelry, including a diamond ring and several large gold chains. They have no suspects in the case.
The incident happened at 12:30 this morning, just hours after the jury adjourned following its first day of deliberating in Shakur's latest criminal trial, this one involving allegations by a New York City woman that Shakur engaged in "deviant sexual intercourse" and "sexual contact by forcible compulsion" with her in a Manhattan hotel room a year ago. The jury, which was unaware of the shooting, deliberated all day without reaching a verdict. And by early evening Shakur had checked himself out of the hospital, against the advice of doctors.
Shakur, 23, is one of the so-called gangsta rappers, best known for the violent imagery in their lyrics. He first gained notoriety with his 1992 debut album "2Pacalypse Now," which sold some 400,000 copies and drew the ire of Dan Quayle, among others, for its reference to "dropping" a cop. He returned to the same themes in last year's "Strictly 4 My Niggaz."
In the past three years, he has starred in three movies: the 1992 "Juice," in which he played a misunderstood and homicidal musician; "Poetic Justice," in which he played a misunderstood postal worker; and most recently "Above the Rim," in which he played a misunderstood basketball player. In the recent video for the song "Natural Born Killaz," he portrays a policeman who fatally shoots two characters played by rappers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.
As his film and music career has taken off, however, Shakur has attracted more trouble, including an alleged attack on filmmaker Allen Hughes, an alleged assault on a Los Angeles limousine driver, an assault conviction for an attack with a baseball bat on another rapper in Michigan, a gun battle with two off-duty Atlanta policemen in which charges were later dropped, and a parole violation in California.
Most serious of all are the sexual abuse charges currently pending against Shakur involving a woman he met last year at the downtown Manhattan nightclub Nell's, where she allegedly performed oral sex on Shakur on the dance floor. A week later she went to his hotel room, where she claims Shakur and two members of his entourage assaulted her. After a short trial, the case went to the jury Tuesday.
The Times Square shooting took place early this morning, as Shakur and three others entered the lobby of the Quad Recording Studio on Eighth Avenue. According to police, as he and his friends were buzzed into the lobby, two men followed them through the door and -- together with a third man already in the building -- pulled out guns and yelled, "Give it up."
Shakur, according to a police spokesman, "exchanged words" with one of the gunmen, refusing to lie down on the floor, and then "lunged" at one of the assailants. In the ensuing struggle, Shakur was shot five times: in the head, the hand, and, most seriously, the groin, where he suffered internal bleeding. His manager, 24-year-old Freddie Moore, was shot in the abdomen and is listed in stable condition at St. Vincent's Hospital. Moore chased the robbers down the street before giving up. Shakur's two other companions carried him upstairs to the recording studio, where they called police.
"My instincts tell me that this looks like a setup, smells like a setup and feels like a setup," Shakur's attorney, Michael Warren, told reporters in front of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan today. According to the Associated Press, a police source who asked not to be identified said that Shakur told police he believed the assailants knew him and were after him.
However, police said they were treating this as just another Times Square mugging, and said it did not appear that the bandits knew whom they were assaulting. "Anybody who was going into that building at that time was going to be robbed," said Assistant Police Chief John Hill.
When the police came to investigate the shooting, they found three bags of marijuana and a 9mm clip with 15 rounds of ammunition in Shakur's jacket pocket. Police said that because Shakur wasn't wearing the jacket at the time, he will not be charged.
"We all have a right to bear arms," Shakur had said Tuesday as he left the courthouse. "Just because I'm black doesn't mean I can't carry a gun."