Murder of the Notorious B.I.G.
|Murder of The Notorious B.I.G.|
|Location||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Date||March 9, 1997 |
12:47 a.m. PST (UTC−08:00)
|Target||Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. "The Notorious B.I.G."|
|Murder by drive-by shooting, assassination|
|Weapon||Blue-steel 9×19mm pistol (exact model and make unknown)|
|Deaths||1 (Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. "The Notorious B.I.G.")|
The murder of Christopher Wallace, an American rapper better known by his stage names "the Notorious B.I.G." and "Biggie Smalls", occurred in the early hours of Sunday, March 9, 1997. The hip hop artist was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. He was 24 years old.
In 2006, Wallace's mother, Voletta Wallace, his widow, Faith Evans, and his children T'yanna Jackson and Christopher Jordan "CJ" Wallace, filed a $400 million second wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) alleging that corrupt officers were responsible for Wallace's death. Retired LAPD Officer Greg Kading alleged that Marion "Suge" Knight, the head of Death Row Records, orchestrated the murder in revenge for the September 1996 killing of Tupac Shakur in a similar drive-by homicide by gunshot.
Christopher Wallace traveled to Los Angeles, California, in February 1997 to promote his upcoming second studio album, Life After Death, and to film a music video for its lead single, "Hypnotize". On March 5, he gave a radio interview with The Dog House on San Francisco's KYLD, in which he stated that he had hired security because he feared for his safety. Wallace cited that the reasons for the decision were not only the ongoing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud and the murder of Tupac Shakur six months prior, but that security was simply a necessity for high-profile celebrity figures in general. Life After Death was scheduled for release on March 25, 1997.
On March 7, Wallace presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards and was booed by some of the audience. The next morning Wallace was scheduled to go to London but this did not happen. The following evening, March 8, he and the Bad Boy Records entourage attended an after-party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum set up by Kidada Jones in the Carthay Circle community of Los Angeles. Other guests included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Chris Tucker, the Wayans brothers, Ginuwine, Irv Gotti, Jewell, Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat, Missy Elliot, Timbaland, Kenny Burns, DJ Clue, Clark Kent, DJ Quik, Ed Lover, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.
Photographer Eric Johnson said that he was supposed to photograph Biggie in Los Angeles in 1997, but that he could not be pinpointed to a location because Biggie kept getting death threats.
On March 9, 1997, at 12:30 a.m. (PST), Wallace left with his entourage in two Chevrolet Suburbans to attend an after-party at Steve Stoute's house in the Hollywood Hills. Prior to leaving, the Los Angeles Fire Department closed the party early because of smoking and loud music. Wallace traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates Damion "D-Roc" Butler, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease, and driver Gregory "G-Money" Young. Sean Combs traveled in the other vehicle with Eugene "Gene" Deal, Tone, Stevie J and driver Kenny. The two SUVs were trailed by a Chevrolet Blazer carrying Bad Boy Records' director of security, Paul Offord, driven by an off-duty Inglewood police officer.
By 12:45 a.m. (PST), the streets were crowded with people leaving the museum. Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Fairfax Avenue just 50 yd (46 m) away. Two minutes later, a dark-colored 1994–1996 Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's Suburban. The driver of the Impala, a black male, rolled down his window, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the SUV; four bullets hit Wallace. Wallace's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. (PST). He was 24 years old.
Wallace's autopsy report was released to the public in December 2012, fifteen years after his death. According to the report, three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit his left forearm and traveled down to his wrist; the second hit him in the back, missing all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder; and the third hit his left thigh and exited through his inner thigh. The report said that the third bullet struck "the left side of the scrotum, causing a very shallow, 3⁄8 in [10 mm] linear laceration." The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, including his colon, liver, heart, and the upper lobe of his left lung, before stopping in his left shoulder area.
Immediately following the shooting, reports surfaced linking Wallace's murder with that of Shakur's six months earlier, due to similarities in the drive-by shootings and the highly publicized East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud, of which Shakur and Wallace had been central figures. Media reports had previously speculated that Wallace was in some way connected to Shakur's murder, though no evidence ever surfaced to seriously implicate him. Shortly after Wallace's death, Los Angeles Times writers Chuck Philips and Matt Lait reported that the key suspect in his murder was a member of the Southside Crips acting out of a personal financial motive, rather than on the gang's behalf. The investigation stalled, however, and no one was ever formally charged.
In a 2002 book by Randall Sullivan, called LAbyrinth, information was compiled about the murders of Wallace and Shakur based on information provided by retired LAPD detective Russell Poole. In the book, Sullivan accused Marion "Suge" Knight, co-founder of Death Row Records and a known Bloods affiliate, of conspiring with corrupt Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer David Mack to kill Wallace and make both deaths appear to be the result of the rap rivalry. The book stated that one of Mack's alleged associates, Amir Muhammad, was the hitman who killed Wallace. The theory was based on evidence provided by an informant named Psycho Mike and the general resemblance of Muhammad to the facial composite generated during the investigation.
In 2002, filmmaker Nick Broomfield released a documentary, Biggie & Tupac, based on information from the book. The New York Times described Broomfield's documentary as a "largely speculative" and "circumstantial" account relying on flimsy evidence, failing to "present counter-evidence" or "question sources." Moreover, the motive suggested for the murder of Wallace in the documentary—to decrease suspicion for the Shakur shooting six months earlier—was, as the Times put it, "unsupported in the film."
An article published in Rolling Stone by Sullivan in December 2005 accused the LAPD of not fully investigating leads concerning Death Row Records based on Poole's evidence. He claimed that Combs "failed to fully cooperate with the investigation", and according to Poole, encouraged Bad Boy staff to do the same. The accuracy of the article was later challenged in a letter by the Assistant Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Times, who accused Sullivan of using "shoddy tactics." Sullivan, in response, quoted the lead attorney of the Wallace estate calling the newspaper "a co-conspirator in the cover-up."
In alluding to Sullivan and Poole's theory that formed the basis of the Wallace family's dismissed $500 million lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, The New York Times wrote: "A cottage industry of criminal speculation has sprung up around the case, with documentaries, books and a stream of lurid magazine articles implicating gangs, crooked cops and a cross-country rap rivalry," noting that everything associated with Wallace's death had been "big business." More recently, the film City of Lies was produced based on Poole's investigation and Sullivan's book, and cast Johnny Depp as Poole.
The Los Angeles Times printed conflicting theories of the murder in different sections of the paper. The Metro section of the Times reported that police suspected a connection between Wallace's death and the Rampart police corruption scandal, consistent with Sullivan and Poole's theory. The Metro section also ran a photo of Muhammad, identified by police as a mortgage broker unconnected to the murder who appeared to match details of the gunman, printing his name and driver's license. However, Philips, a staff writer for the Business section of the Times, searched for Muhammad, whom the Metro reporters could not find for comment. It took only three days to find Muhammad, who had a current ad for his brokerage business running in the Times.
Muhammad, who was not an official suspect at the time, came forward to clear his name. The Metro section of the paper was opposed to running a retraction, but the business desk editor, Mark Saylor, said, "Chuck is sort of the world's authority on rap violence" and pushed, along with Philips, for the Times to retract the article. A correction article written by Philips, written in May 2000, quoted Muhammad as saying, "I'm a mortgage broker, not a murderer" and asking, "How can something so completely false end up on the front page of a major newspaper?" The story cleared Muhammad's name.
A later 2005 story by Philips showed that the main informant for the Poole-Sullivan theory, Psycho Mike, was a schizophrenic with admitted memory lapses who confessed to hearsay. John Cook of Brill's Content noted that Philips' article "demolished" the Poole-Sullivan theory of Wallace's murder.
In the 2000 book The Murder of Biggie Smalls, investigative journalist and author Cathy Scott suggested that Wallace and Shakur's murders might have been the result of the East Coast–West Coast feud and motivated by financial gain for the record companies, because the rappers were worth more dead than alive.
The criminal investigation into Wallace's murder was re-opened in July 2006 to look for new evidence to help the city defend the civil lawsuits brought by the Wallace family. Retired LAPD detective Greg Kading, who worked for three years on a gang task force that included the Wallace case, alleged that the rapper was shot by Wardell "Poochie" Fouse, a Mob Piru gang member and an associate of Knight, who died on July 24, 2003, after being shot in the back while riding his motorcycle in Compton. Kading believes Knight hired Poochie via his girlfriend, Theresa Swann, to kill Wallace to avenge the death of Shakur, who, Kading alleges, was killed under the orders of Combs.
In December 2012, the LAPD released the autopsy results conducted on Wallace's body to generate new leads. The release was criticized by the long-time lawyer of his estate, Perry Sanders Jr., who objected to an autopsy. The case remains officially unsolved.
Wrongful death claim
In April 2002, Wallace's mother Voletta filed a wrongful death claim against the City of Los Angeles based on the evidence championed by Poole. Voletta claimed that the LAPD had sufficient evidence to arrest the gunman but failed to use it. Mack and Muhammad (a.k.a. Harry Billups) were originally named as defendants in the civil suit, but were dropped shortly before the trial began after the LAPD and FBI dismissed them as suspects.
The case came for trial before a jury on June 21, 2004. On the eve of the trial, a key witness who was expected to testify, Kevin Hackie, revealed that he suffered memory lapses due to psychiatric medications. He had previously testified to knowledge of involvement between Knight, Mack, and Muhammed, but later said that the Wallace attorneys had altered his declarations to include words he never said. Hackie took full blame for filing a false declaration.
Several days into the trial, the plaintiffs' attorney disclosed to the Court and opposing counsel that he had received a telephone call from someone claiming to be an LAPD officer and provided detailed information about the existence of evidence concerning the Wallace murder. The court directed the city to conduct a thorough investigation, which uncovered previously undisclosed evidence, much of which was in the desk or cabinet of Det. Steven Katz, the lead detective in the Wallace investigation.
The documents centered around interviews by numerous police officers of an incarcerated informant, who had been a cellmate of imprisoned Rampart officer Rafael Perez for some extended period of time. He reported that Perez had told him about his and Mack's involvement with Death Row Records and their activities at the Petersen Automotive Museum the night of Wallace's murder. As a result of the newly discovered evidence, the judge declared a mistrial and awarded the Wallace family its attorneys' fees.
On April 16, 2007, relatives of Wallace filed a second wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. The suit also named two LAPD officers in the center of the investigation into the Rampart scandal, Perez and Nino Durden. According to the claim, Perez, an alleged affiliate of Death Row Records, admitted to LAPD officials that he and Mack (who was not named in the lawsuit) "conspired to murder, and participated in the murder of Christopher Wallace". The Wallace family said the LAPD "consciously concealed Rafael Perez's involvement in the murder of ... Wallace".
United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted summary judgment to the city on December 17, 2007, finding that the Wallace family had not complied with a California law that required the family to give notice of its claim to the State within six months of Wallace's death. The Wallace family refiled the suit, dropping the state law claims on May 27, 2008. The suit against the City of Los Angeles was finally dismissed in 2010. It was described by The New York Times as "one of the longest running and most contentious celebrity cases in history." The Wallace suit had asked for $500 million from the city.
On January 19, 2007, Tyruss "Big Syke" Himes, a friend of Shakur who was implicated in Wallace's murder by the Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV and XXL magazine in 2005, had a defamation lawsuit regarding the accusations thrown out of court.
- "Notorious B.I.G. Murder Case: Finally Time for Answers?". ABC News.
- Kenner, Rob (March 9, 2012). "Interview: Former L.A.P.D. Detective Says He Knows Who Killed The Notorious B.I.G." Complex. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
- "Biggie Told Interviewer He Worried About Safety". MTV News. March 12, 1997. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
- Bruno, Anthony The Murders of gangsta rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Archived April 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Court TV Crime Library. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
- Sullivan, Randall (December 5, 2005). "The Unsolved Mystery of the Notorious B.I.G." Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2006.
- Johnson, Eric (May 11, 2022). "Biggie kept saying: 'Is this where they dump the dead bodies?' – Eric Johnson's best photograph". The Guardian (Interview). Interviewed by Dave SImpson.
- Purdum, Todd S. (March 10, 1997). "Rapper Is Shot to Death in Echo of Killing 6 Months Ago". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
- nevereatshreddedwheat # (March 9, 1997). "where biggie smalls was shot and killed in los angeles : the notorious b.i.g. | music at popturf". Popturf.com. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
- Horowitz, Steven J. (December 7, 2012). "Notorious B.I.G. Autopsy Report Released". HipHop DX. Archived from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- Smith, Alex M. (August 18, 2014). "Nas Interview: Tupac, B.I.G. Deaths Were Nearly 'The End Of Rap'". Music Times.
- Cathy Scott. "Rap slaying similar to Shakur's". Las Vegas Sun. March 10, 1997.
- Philips Laitt, Chuck Matt (March 18, 1997). "Personal Dispute Is Focus of Rap Probe". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
- Fuchs, Cynthia (September 6, 2002). "Biggie and Tupac review" PopMatters. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
- Serpick, Evan (April 12, 2002). "Review: Rappers' deaths probed in 'LAbyrinth'" Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
- Philips, Chuck (February 4, 2007). "Slain rapper's family keeps pushing suit". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 20, 2017.
- Philips, Chuck (June 20, 2005). "Witness in B.I.G. case says his memory's bad". LA Times. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
- Leland, John (October 7, 2002). "New Theories Stir Speculation On Rap Deaths". New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
- Duvoisin, Marc; Sullivan, Randall (January 12, 2006). "L.A. Times Responds to Biggie Story". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- SISARIO, Ben (April 19, 2010). "Wrongful-Death Lawsuit Over Rapper Is Dismissed". New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- Lopez, Ricardo (August 7, 2018). "Johnny Depp's Notorious B.I.G. Film 'City of Lies' Pulled From Release Schedule". Variety. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- Cook, John (May 23–26, 2000). "Notorious LAT". Brills Content. Archived from the original on August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
- Trounson, Rebecca (February 22, 2012). "Mark Saylor dies at 58; former Times editor oversaw Pulitzer-winning series". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Philips, Chuck (May 3, 2000). "Man No Longer Under Scrutiny in Rapper's Death". Los Angeles Times.
- Philips, Chuck (June 3, 2005). "Informant in Rap Star's Slaying Admits Hearsay". LA Times. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- Bruno, Anthony. "Hip-Hop Homicide — "Worth More Dead Than Alive" — Crime Library on". Trutv.com. Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
- Philips, Chuck (July 31, 2006). "LAPD Renews Search for Rapper's Killer". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2007.
- "LAPD launching new Notorious BIG task force". Associated Press. August 3, 2006. Retrieved September 29, 2006.
- Kenner, Rob (March 9, 2012). "Interview: Suge Knight paid Poochie $900 before killing B.I.G. after killing B.I.G. he came to Theresa to grab $400 to get out of town. Theresa kept the remaining $12,000 for being a lookout to give info to Poochie of Biggie's location when he was leaving the party. Former L.A.P.D. Detective Says He Knows Who Killed The Notorious B.I.G." Complex.com. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Quinn, Rob (October 4, 2011). "Sean Combs Ordered Tupac Murder: LA Cop:And Suge Knight had Biggie Smalls killed in revenge, says book by former LAPD detective". Newser. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Wolfe, Roman (December 8, 2012). "Lawyer For Notorious B.I.G. Blasts LAPD Over Autopsy Report". AllHipHop. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- "Notorious B.I.G. heirs sue LAPD, officials, city". CNN. April 11, 2002.
- Estate of Wallace v. City of Los Angeles, 229 F.R.D. 163 (C.D. Cal. 2005);Reid, Shaheem (July 5, 2004). "Notorious B.I.G. Wrongful-Death Case Declared A Mistrial". MTV News. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Finn, Natalie (April 18, 2007). "An Extra B.I.G. Suit". E! Online. Retrieved August 2, 2002.
- Estate of Christopher G.L. Wallace v. City of Los Angeles, et al., 2:07-cv-02956-FMC-RZx, slip op. at 15 (C.D. Cal. December 17, 2007) (Cooper, J.).
- Complaint, Estate of Christopher G.L. Wallace v. City of Los Angeles, et al., 2:07-cv-02956-FMC-RZx (C.D. Cal. May 27, 2008).
- "Lawsuit involving rapper death dismissed". Yahoo!. Associated Press. January 20, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2009.