Day Three: Fearing gang-related
violence, hospital authorities step up security. Between
UMC security, LVPD, and Death Row bodyguards, the trauma
unit is all badges, brawn, and walkie-talkies. Outside,
a local Channel 3 news van backfires twice and everybody
in earshot drops to the ground. At about 8 p.m. police
and Tupac's crew get into a shouting match that results
in people getting handcuffed and detained by police.
LVPD's Gang Sergeant Cindi West calls it "a misunderstanding."
Rumors abound. Depending on who you ask,
Tupac is either on his way to the morgue or in intensive
care puffing on a cigarette. In truth, he's alive but
experiencing respiratory trouble. Surgeons decide to
go in a second time and remove 'Pac's shattered right
lung. "You can live with one lung," says Dr.
Jonathan Weissler, chief of pulmonary and critical care
medicine at Southwestern Medical in Dallas. "And
after a while you can live quite well with it."
After hours of unconsciousness, Tupac
momentarily opens his eyes. Hearts are lifted.
Day Four: The entire hip hop world
is turned on its ear. Overzealous reporters suggest
that the shooting is tied to the East Coast- West Coast
rivalry. A few speculate that it may be gang-related.
Among the names being thrown about are the Notor ious
B.I.G. and Mobb Deep (who are both entangled in protracted
lyric feuds with Tupac), Las Vegas Crips, Los Angeles
Crips, even Death Row employees. At least one Bad Boy
Entertainment staffer receives death threats, and the
New York-based label cancels a scheduled appearance
of some of their artists.
"That this is gang-related is still
pure speculation," says Sergeant Manning. "We
have to run by facts." The entire Death Row organization,
according to one employee, has been put under a gag
order by higher-ups. LVPD, frustrated by the lack of
coopera tion from Tupac's camp, complain to the press.
"The problem is a lack of forthrightness,"
says Manning, barely concealing his disgust. "It
amazes me when they have professional bodyguards who
can't even give an accurate description of the vehicle."
Meanwh ile Suge, who was released from the hospital
with minor head wounds, is nowhere to be found.
In the trauma unit there's meditation
and prayer. Tupac's aunt, Yaasmyn Fula, a tall, regal
woman, removes her glasses and wipes her puffy eyes.
"I'm just really, really tired," she says
quietly. Afeni Shakur, 50, a woman of small frame and
formidable grace, looks about the same. The former Black
Panther who 'Pac calls Mama seems to carry the weight
of the world upon her small shoulders. Visiting hours
are almost over and she returns to the hotel for an
hour or two of restless rest. 'Pac is still in critical
Family members silently get into a plain
blue Chrysler. An older man wraps his arms around Afeni,
and she leans in heavily as the car drives away.
Day Five: The morning brings news
of a murder in Los Angeles. A Compton bodyguard, who
police say is connected with the Southside Crips, has
been shot in his car and pronounced dead at Martin Luther
King Jr. General Hospital at 9:53 a.m. The rum or is
that the homicide was payback for Tupac being shot.
"Someone just drove up alongside and blasted him,"
says LAPD homicide detective Mike Pariz. "This
is only the beginning," says a Compton resident.
"The gang shit is about to be on."
Suge makes himself available to the LVPD
for questioning. Investigators review a videotape from
the MGM taken the night of the Tyson fight, which reportedly
shows Tupac and others in a confrontation with an unknown
black man dressed in jeans and a T-sh irt. "This
happened at approximately 8:45 p.m.," says Sergeant
Manning. "Kicking and punching were involved."
Authorities won't reveal whether Tupac or Suge personally
assaulted the man. Once police officers arrived at the
scene they asked if the victim w anted to file a complaint.
He said "Forget it" and walked away. Officers
never got a name. "There is no reason to believe
that these incidents are at all connected," says
Day Six: Tupac, his eyes closed
and his remaining lung inflamed, ("Ready to Die,"
cont.) struggles for his life. He's connected to a respirator,
his body convulsing violently at times. Doctors induce
paralysis for fear of 'Pac hurting himself. D r. John
Fildes, chairman of the hospital's trauma center, gives
him a 20 percent chance of survival. "It's a very
fatal injury," he says. "A patient may die
from lack of oxygen or may bleed to death." Despite
newspaper headlines like WOUNDED TUPAC IS UNLIKELY TO
LIVE, family members hold out hope.
Day Seven: "This is Dale Pugh,
marketing and public relations director for the University
Medical Center," says a hospital hotline answering
machine. "This message is being recorded at approximately
5:15 p.m. on Friday, September 13. Tupac Shaku r has
passed away at UMC at approximately 4:03 p.m. Physicians
have listed the cause of death as respiratory failure
and cardiopulmonary arrest."
At the hospital there's a stillness, a
surreal calm. The contradictions of Tupac's many worlds
are converging. More than 150 people are gathered out
front: dark young girls and their mothers, lanky young
men with combs in their uncombed heads; others w earing
do-rags, professional women, young Native-American 'bangers
and children-dozens and dozens of children. Detached
reporters wait with the teary-eyed. A blond, blue-eyed
cop stands next to a white boy with dollar signs tattooed
on his neck.
Surrounded by family, Afeni dashes out
of the trauma unit, quiet determination etched on her
face. "She is an extremely spiritual person,"
says a family friend. "I think she knew. She had
given her only son to God long before this day."
A member of Tupac's crew leaves the trauma
room soon after. He stares down a hospital staffer and
screams: "Why the f*ck you let him die, yo?! Why
the f*ck you let him die?"
Behind him, Yakki, Tupac's cousin, who's
been at 'Pac's side since forever, walks out, red in
the face. Death Row artist Danny Boy comes in tube socks
and slippers, tears falling from behind half-and-half
glasses. He bends down on one knee as if in pra yer.
There's a trace of crimson in the clouds.
Suddenly three shining cars appear and Suge Knight steps
out of a black Lexus in a Phoenix Suns T-shirt, the
wound up top his head barely noticeable. His massive
figure quiets the crowd. He enters the trauma ce nter
hugging Danny Boy around the neck and talking quietly
with members of Tupac's family. Without his running
mate Tupac, Suge seems more solitary. After a few minutes
he turns to leave, taking pulls on a barely lit cigar
and leaving whispers in his wake .
As the minutes go by, an almost festive
atmosphere develops outside. Cars roll up bumping Tupac
songs. Children begin running beyond their mothers'
reach. One little boy in naps and slippers lies down
between two parked cars, glancing up mischievously to
check if anyone sees him.
The press packs it up. The crowd begins
to disperse. A black Humvee circles the hospital, blaring
"If I Die Tonight."
"I'll live eternal / Who shall
I fear / Don't shed a tear for me nigga / I ain't happy
here." The resoluteness in 'Pac's voice is cathartic.
"I hope they bury me and send me to my rest / Headlines
readin' murdered to death / My last breath...."
Such eerily prophetic lines were not unusual
for Tupac, who seemed to be rehearsing his death from
early on. For him, it was valor over violence, destiny
over death. But if his listeners were forewarned, they
were still unprepared. "Now it's real," say
s Vibe writer Robert Morales. "This scene has lost
its cherry. All the shit people have been talking in
the past five years, all the dissing and posturing,
has led to this. Hip hop has crossed a line, and it's
gonna be hard to cross back."
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