And the light shineth in the darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not.
Day One, Saturday, September 7:
Mike Tyson is a thug's champion. Mighty but vulnerable,
streetwise but naive, standing in a precarious place
despite his wealth. The place is special in the hearts
of hustlers. A Tyson fight is an unofficial gangsta
party. It's where the ghetto elite meet: rich niggas
with nothing to lose, indulging their contradictions.
The anticipation builds as colorfully
dressed folks file into the MGM Grand on this hot Las
Vegas evening. Inside, playas like Stacey Augmon, New
Edition, Gary Payton, Too Short, and Run-DMC settle
in. Among the 'bangers, ballers, dealers, and denizens
in the VIP section are two of America's most infamous:
Marion "Suge" Knight, the Death Row Records
CEO who's made no secret of his affiliation with the
Bloods, and his quintuple-platinum superstar, Tupac
The bell dings, and Mike Tyson makes quick
work of a hapless Bruce Seldon. Too quick for the crowd's
taste. The mood after the 109-second fight is ugly,
but Tupac is gleeful, jumping about like a little boy.
"Did you see Tyson do it to 'im? Tyson did it to
'im! Did y'all see that?" says 'Pac, baiting a
camera crew in the MGM lobby. He becomes more and more
animated talking about Mike. "Did y'all see that?
Fifty punches! I counted, 50 punches! I knew he was
gon' take him out. We bad like that. Come out of prison
and now we running shit." Suge, smiling at 'Pac's
antics, grabs his arm and coaxes him away from the camera.
Tupac returns to his room at the nearby
Luxor, a massive black pyramid with a brightly illuminated
top. According to a close friend, he's slightly upset
because he couldn't find his road dawgs, the Outlaws,
who were supposed to be at the fight with him. "He
complained of getting into a scrap with some Crips."
Back outside the MGM, an amateur videographer
catches 'Pac and Suge waiting for their car, surrounded
by a bevy of women. Tupac has changed from the brushed
silk shirt he wore to the fight to a black basketball
jersey that better exposes his tattooed biceps and the
diamond-and-ruby-encrusted medallion hanging from his
neck. On it is an angel in waiting, wings outspread,
gun in hand.
Well it's time to ride / I'm ready
to die right here tonight / And motherf*ck they life
/ That's what they screamin' as they drill me / But
I'm hard to kill, so open fire.
-2Pac, "Ambitionz az a Ridah"
Eleven-fifteen p.m. finds Suge and 'Pac
turning off Las Vegas Boulevard onto Flamingo, heading
east toward Suge's Club 662 in a black BMW 750, presumably
to get their party on. Several women in an Oldsmobile
flash 'Pac and Suge. Suge's at the wheel and 'Pac's
next to him, his window down. He's all smiles, yelling
to his fans, inviting them to join the party. Leading
a convoy estimated at anywhere between six and 15 cars,
the BMW stops at a red light in front of the Maxim Hotel-just
beyond the Strip, where the neon and hubbub end and
the darkness of a desert town begins.
A late-model white Cadillac with California plates
pulls up to the right of the BMW. One of its four passengers
takes out a high-caliber firearm. "I heard these
sounds and thought it was someone shooting in the air,"
says an eyewitness who was idling three cars back, "but
then I see sparks fly from the gun." Between 10
and 15 shots ring out. Lead pierces metal, glass, flesh.
Two bullets tear through Tupac's chest, one through
a hand, one in a leg. Bullet fragments graze the top
of Suge's head. The Cadillac peels off to the right,
heading south down Koval Street. With two tires blown
out and the windshield shot through, Suge floors his
Beemer, screeching into a wild U-turn against oncoming
traffic as vehicles scatter.
Two policemen at the Maxim on an unrelated
call hear the shots and see the commotion. They immediately
give chase. According to a friend of Suge's, who was
told the details later, Tupac is now bleeding through
his jersey. "Gotta keep your eyes open," 'Pac
says to himself. Suge stops the car and the police arrive.
Tupac is stretched out in the back of the BMW bleeding
profusely. Ambulance lights flash. "There was blood
everywhere," says one witness.
"Get down!" yells a policeman,
pointing a shotgun at Suge.
"I gotta get my boy to the hospital,"
"Shut up. Get down!" Suge
bends his knees to the ground.
Across town, a white Cadillac slips quietly
away into the night. "I'm dying, I'm dying,"
says Tupac as he's being brought into University Medical
Center's intensive care unit. He's lost a lot of blood.
He undergoes the first of two complicated operations.
Afterwards, Tupac's mother, aunt, and friends-including
Mike Tyson, Jasmine Guy, and Jesse Jackson-rush to his
Day Two: Within hours the shots
have been heard 'round the world. Two years after the
last attempt on his life, hip hop's Lazarus has caught
bullets once again and no one knows what to think. Will
he die? Will he return from this ordeal larger, more
invincible? It's difficult to imagine such a kinetic
and volatile figure lying immobilized. This, after all,
is the same man who got into a gun battle with cops
on an Atlanta street and bopped out of the courtroom
unscathed. The same man who survived five bullet wounds
in a 1994 Times Square ambush. The same man who, though
convicted of sexual abuse, left a New York jail richer
and more popular than when he went in. " 'Pac will
be all right," says a family member. "He'll
Predictably, the media jumps on the gangsta
image, the court cases, the prison terms, and the thuggish
lyrics Bob Dole denounced. But his friends recount other
stories. "I've always known him to be gracious,
humane," says hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. "All
this gangsta stuff, I've never seen it. I remember him
dancing with this woman in a wheelchair for four hours
when everybody else was drinking and partying. That's
how I knew the man. He's a total sophisticate: intelligent,
"He looks like a sleeping black angel,"
says a close friend, after visiting Tupac in the hospital.
"I talked to him, touched him. I told him to go
to his light."
The members of Suge's Death Row entourage
are questioned by police, but provide little information.
Sergeant Kevin Manning of the Las Vegas Police Department
says, "They were not quite candid," about
the circumstances surrounding the shooting.