This Tuesday (June 16) marked what would have been 2Pac’s 44th birthday; this fall will count 19 years since he was murdered on the Las Vegas strip. Though theories have swirled for years as to what exactly happened on the night of September 7, 1996, the murder remains unsolved. Now, a former LAPD Detective, Russell Poole–who served as a key source in Randall Sullivan’s investigative book LAbyrinth–says that he thinks he knows who was behind the killing. Writing for Vice, XXL contributor Jeff Weiss reports that in 1998, Poole received from a local crime reporter a tip about a man named Malcolm Patton’s supposed confession to carrying out a hit on 2Pac. In the note, dictated to one of the newsman’s jail informants, Patton says that he, his brother and a Long Beach Crip named Donald Smith carried out the hit with help from Reggie Wright, Jr., the head of Death Row’s security detail, and from Suge Knight’s then-wife.
Smith, better known as the rapper Lil 1/2 Dead, a Death Row affiliate and Snoop Dogg’s cousin, is alleged to have had his own, private motive for the killing: Poole suggests that in 1991, during the recording of 2Pacalypse Now, the aspiring rapper passed Pac his demo tape. Though he didn’t hear from the rapper again, he head his own words on the radio–in the form of “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” Pac’s breakthrough hit that Lil 1/2 Dead allegedly wrote. For more on the theory, read the exhaustive and informative Vice piece. As for Poole, the revered detective remains incensed that law enforcement has bungled the investigation so badly. ”If this was Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra who got murdered, there would’ve been arrests a long time ago,” he says. “This case can be solved, but needs police follow-up. There are clues sitting right in front of the police. It’s a travesty of justice.” (Weiss is the author of 2Pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle.)