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

Lis­ten: One seg­ment

NB: Mr. Emory no longer thinks that the events dis­cussed here are an accu­rate analy­sis of the death of Tupac Shakur. Read the book LAbyrinth.

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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