Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #176 Fortunate Son II: The Murder of Tupac Shakur

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In what might be termed an example of intergenerational political repression, the killing of rap star Tupac Shakur’s in 1996 may have been the culmination of a program of political harassment by elements of law enforcement. Shakur’s intense, outspoken political sentiments derive, in considerable measure, from a family legacy of activism in the Black Panther Party and other African-American causes. His mother Afeni, stepfather Mutulu and Godfather Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt all experienced harassment and worse during the FBI’s COINTELPRO program during the 1960’s and early ’70’s. Shakur may have died following in their footsteps, as JFK Jr. may have died following in his father’s footsteps. The circumstances surrounding Shakur’s murderer are suspicious, as are those around an earlier beating at the hands of the police, a suspicious “sexual abuse” conviction and a near-fatal mugging.

Beyond that, the pattern of events suggests that a number of people in Shakur’s milieu may have been collaborating with elements of law enforcement in a latter-day, COINTELPRO-style operation directed against the singer. Extremely popular in the African-American community, very active on behalf of a number of causes and growing in stature as a film star, Shakur was in a position to be a major political force in the progressive community and may have aroused the alarm and suspicion of elements of the intelligence community and law enforcement. He was openly denounced as responsible for the deaths of police officers by both Vice President Quayle and Senator Bob Dole.

An award-winning police reporter for the Las Vegas Sun has noted that police procedure in the Shakur murder was irregular in several respects. The police officers who arrived on the murder scene failed to split-up, one interviewing witnesses and the other trying to find the killer. More importantly, they failed to interview Shakur’s cousin and back-up singer when he told them he could identify the killer in a police line-up. He was later murdered in New Jersey, in what police initially described as a drug-related killing, despite an absence of evidence to that effect. “Suge” Knight head of Death Row Records (Shakur’s label) also behaved suspiciously. The driver of the death car, Knight was slightly grazed by one of the 15 shots fired by the killers, while Shakur incurred multiple fatal wounds. Instead of going to a nearby hospital, Knight turned around and drove away from the hospital. (Knight had lived in Las Vegas for several years and was familiar with the town.) Later he declined any effort at finding or identifying the killers, saying it wasn’t “his job”. Witnesses familiar with Knight’s security routine say the procedure on the night of Shakur’s death was “aberrant,” in that the customary bodyguards were absent. (Death Row records was begun with a one million-dollar disbursement by one of the top dealers in L.A.’s ClA-generated crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s.)

It should be noted that there was intense friction between Knight and Shakur, who wanted to leave Death Row and start his own label. Shortly after Shakur’s recording career began to take off, he was detained on a petty excuse and savagely beaten by police. Later an associate, who appears to have been collaborating with elements of law enforcement, helped to arrange a sexual encounter that resulted in Shakur being railroaded into a “sexual abuse” conviction. That same associate was observed to be surreptitiously tailing Shakur on several occasions and was involved in helping to arrange the circumstances surrounding Shakur’s near-fatal mugging in 1994.

Curiously, some of the officers who responded to this “mugging” (conducted in a populous, brightly-lit area) were some of the officers involved with Shakur’s sexual abuse conviction. The murder of rapper Biggie Smalls some months after Shakur’s killing may also have been precipitated by elements of law enforcement, in what some have alleged was an attempt to precipitate a civil war in the rap community.

Shakur’s ordeal at the hands of the authorities must be viewed against the background of former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen’s statement (in his book, FBI Secrets) that the COINTELPRO program continued, despite assurances that it had been discontinued. Shakur’s work has been honored in many prestigious arenas in the years following his death.

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