Suge Knight Describes The Night Tupac Was Shot & Retraces Their Route Step By Step
The night of September 7, 1996 changed history forever. Mike Tyson defeated Bruce Seldon in a WBA championship fight that lasted less than two minutes. He entered the ring to a song by friend Tupac Shakur, who attended the MGM event seated beside manager and employer Suge Knight.
After the decision was confirmed, Shakur posed with Tyson briefly beside the ring. Pac, Knight, and other members of the Death Row Records entourage entered the MGM lobby. According to reports—including from DJ Quik—Death Row associate Travon Lane pointed out Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson to Shakur in the lobby. Allegedly, Baby Lane was responsible for the recent snatching of Lane’s Death Row Records chain and medallion in the Lakewood Mall. Shakur rushed Baby Lane, with Death Row in tow. Baby Lane, a confirmed member of Compton’s Southside Crips, ended up on the floor, suffering a public beating caught on MGM surveillance cameras. As authorities arrived, the Death Row entourage left the scene without an arrest.
That same evening, Death Row had planned a concert and fight after-party at Knight’s Club 662 in Vegas. In transit, Knight drove a black BMW sedan on custom rims. Tupac Shakur was his lone passenger. Death Row entourage, Tha Outlawz, and members of security were in the same convoy. At the intersection of Flamingo & Koval, a white car pulled alongside the BMW and opened fire. Both Shakur and Knight were struck with rounds. The shooters fled. Knight eventually maneuvered the BMW to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. Shakur was pronounced dead on September 13, 1996 as a result of his gunshot wounds. Knight, who survived despite being grazed in the head, would be sentenced to prison nine years following the damning surveillance footage inside the casino related to a parole violation. That incarceration would cause Death Row hardship, and eventually see the label sold in bankruptcy. Moreover, no one was ever charged with the murder of Shakur.
Today, Suge Knight is serving another sentence involving death and motor vehicles. Before his 28-year prison sentence for the death of Terry Carter, Knight granted a series of interviews to Hollywood movie director Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua previously made Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest, and Southpaw. He has directed Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and one of the men on the scene the day of Knight’s latest infraction, Cle “Bone” Sloan. These interviews are curated to make American Dream/American Knightmare, a rare and personal glimpse into Suge Knight’s life and career that currently is available on Showtime. In addition to Knight, the documentary—shot in Los Angeles, Miami, and Vegas, involves the Compton, California native’s parents and other relatives.
One gripping sequence in Fuqua’s film finds Knight on the Vegas Strip, speaking openly about the night in September of ’96, and what happened.
“Everybody got what they wanted that night,” says Knight at about 52:00 in Fuqua’s documentary. “People got to see [Mike] Tyson knock a mothaf*cka out. When you see a Tyson fight, you’re going to see grown men fight. So maybe that’s probably the reason that got us all f*cked up and in a lot of sh*t from fight night. After the fight is the fight. Pac had a name, at that point, in the music business as a rapper, as the motherf*cking best—the best you can get. Pac wanted that name in the streets, ’cause he on that sh*t, as the best. At least he was man enough and gangsta enough to push his moves and get that name—regardless of whatever it cost. When you see a Tyson fight, you want to fight. So when the little homie get at Pac, he like bam. Next thing I know, he tellin’ Pac something, and he point,” Knight is believed to be referring to Travon Lane, who the Los Angeles Times reported to have participated in the altercation along with Knight associates Alton McDonald, Roger “Neckbone” Williams, and Aaron “Heron” Palmer. Palmer and McDonald were later killed. As of the 2002 report, Lane and Williams were both incarcerated.
“[The] next thing I know, I see Pac [charging the man that was pointed at]. Pac, you know, took the ni**a down. [Tupac is] my little brother. He pushed that M.O.B. [line that aligns with the Compton street gang]. He done took down a well-known Compton gang-banger, who was a Crip. Tupac looked at me and was like, ‘You see how I took off?’ I’m like, ‘Sh*t, you did that.’ I said, ‘Understand one thing: you gonna push that line on somebody, it’s some gang-banger activities [that will] be involved. [There are] consequences with that, you know. After that situation, we on some real ghetto politics right now. You got the homies over here, and you got the [Crips] over here. And you’re gettin’ everything you asked for: you’re the best in the Rap game. Sh*t, now you being the best in this street game.’ I said, ‘The only thing different, in the Rap game, there’s a reward. In the streets when you’re known as the best, you become a trophy. Everybody wants the trophy.'”
At 56:00, Knight drives through the strip in recent years, in a late-model black BMW sedan. “I’m gonna take you there, step-by-step, and show you exactly [where] we started from and where we ended up at.” Knight tells Fuqua’s cameras.
Driving down East Flamingo, Knight drives in the lane that he and Pac were in 22 years ago. Knight accuses an anonymous member of Reggie Wright’s Wrightway Security company (a man he would later trust to run Death Row’s day-to-day operations) erroneously pulled in front of the Knight-Shakur BMW that night. He says an associate urged them to change lanes for security. “As I proceed to get over, the other car comes right there, which is the Cadillac. When the [men inside] the Cadillac start to shoot, Pac get hit. I pulls him down; I get hit in the head. Bam! When I pull him down, bam! I get hit in the head. When I get hit in the head, I immediately look up. When I look up, I seen him—you know—the motherf*cker with fear in his b*tch-ass eyes. Like sh*t, he felt like sh*t…he done got him a trophy. Like he done that.”
In another sequence edited with the Vegas clip, Knight explains, “A lot of people that were with us, they couldn’t start shooting right away because they’d have been shooting at us. We was like in the middle of it. So they had to get out they car and they have to run around. By the time they ran around, these dudes in the other car was trying to drive off.” Knight confirms that some of his entourage shot at the car that he confirms to be a Cadillac. He says those bullets hit the car. He says that moments later, when the shooters on Knight’s side asked if they should give chase on the assailants, he ordered them not to. Instead, he said that he would go to the hospital. “That’s when we came back around, we got jacked up by the police. They wanted to search us and sh*t,” recalls Suge. “So when the ambulance finally came, I’m like, ‘Hey, get [Tupac] out of the motherf*ckin’ car,’ ’cause the police were jammin’ me up too. They ain’t know how to take the seatbelt off.” Knight, whose car was brand new, had complicated features. He has to show the Metro Police how to help get Shakur out of the vehicle. “Pac was cool. He was like, ‘You can tell y’all some broke m’f*ckas; y’all ain’t know how to take no expensive seatbelts off. If a mothaf*cka was in a Honda, you would’ve had me out the car already.’ He was laughin’ and sh*t. We was both goin’ to the hospital, laughin’ and jokin’ all the way.” Knight, as he’s said on record before, claims Shakur believed his friend and colleague had the worse injury.”
Tupac died, while Knight left the hospital hours after being admitted.
In American Dream/American Knightmare, Fuqua mentions the theories surrounding allegations that Knight orchestrated Pac’s murder. “Outsider’s opinion—doesn’t matter, ’cause [it is] opinion. They’re just going by what somebody in the media [or] somebody else says to cover up they own tracks. What kind of many gonna turn around and say, ‘Hey…shoot him, and shoot me in the head twice when I cover him up,’? I’m the only person who took a loss when Pac moved on. Not only did I lose the idea of a friend you can have, or a little brother you can have, Pac was one of the most incredible artists. I know for a fact he worked way more alive than dead.” Knight pulls over his BMW with the crew inside. He exits the vehicle and audibly vomits profusely off camera in one of the most interesting parts of the doc.
Moments later, back in L.A., Fuqua asks Suge about reports that Tupac Shakur wished to leave Death Row Records in his last days, prompting some theorists to believe it caused Knight and others to kill the rapper. Suge says that those reports stem from people who feared Tupac and saw him as competition. In Miami, in another interview portion, Suge says, “When Jimmy Iovine heard or thought that Pac was dead, the first thing he said was, ‘You can’t beat a dead man’s sales!’ He said, ‘You’re lucky as f*ck; you hit the jackpot.'” Suge also decries the former Interscope Chairman for partnering with Puff Daddy and Bad Boy in the 2000s.