January 6th, 2011
11:59 PM ET

Update: Investigation heats up in shooting of rapper Biggie Smalls

Ted Rowlands

Los Angeles (CNN) - A task force made up of local and federal law enforcement agencies is actively pursuing leads into the 1997 slaying of hip hop artist Christopher Wallace, better known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G., according to two sources familiar with the investigation. According to one law enforcement source, the investigation into the 13-year-old unsolved case was "reinvigorated" months ago as a result of new information, but the source would not elaborate further because of the ongoing investigation that includes the Los Angeles Police Department, L.A. County District Attorney's Office and the FBI.

On March 9, 1997, Smalls, 24, was shot and killed when leaving a music industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Los Angeles police said a lone gunman in a Chevy Impala pulled alongside the suburban and opened fire on Smalls, who was in the passenger seat. Witnesses described the suspect as being an African-American man wearing a suit and bow tie.

The main theory behind Smalls' shooting was payback in a so-called rap war between East and West Coast hip hop artists and their record companies-Bad Boy Entertainment in New York, which represented Smalls, and Death Row Records, headed by Marion "Suge" Knight, in Los Angeles. Six months earlier in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire on a car driven by Knight, killing one of his top artists Tupac Shakur. That murder remains unsolved also.

Related: Mystery still surrounds rappers' deaths

"East Coast was Biggie, West Coast was Tupac," Smalls' mother Voletta Wallace told a filmmaker in the 2002 documentary "Biggie and Tupac." "Come on now, you're messing with lives here and that's exactly what happened. Two lives were lost as a result of what? Stupidity?"

Retired Los Angeles Police Detective Russell Poole, who worked on the Smalls' case, told CNN that he believes Knight was behind the murder, even though the Death Row Records' boss was serving time on a probation violation at the time.

"Suge Knight ordered the hit," Poole said, adding that he believes it was arranged by Reggie Wright Jr., who headed security for Death Row Records.

Reggie Wright Jr. told CNN he had nothing to do with the murder, and Knight has repeatedly said he had nothing to do with the crime.

Poole said he retired early from the LAPD, in part, because he was thwarted in following leads in the Smalls' case involving police officers, some of whom worked off-duty for Death Row Records.

"I think I was getting too close to the truth," Poole said. "I think they feared that the truth would be a scandal."

One of the officers Poole said was involved is David Mack, a rogue policeman tied to the LAPD Rampart Scandal, who was sent to prison for robbing a bank in 1997, the same year Smalls was killed. Poole said Mack owned the same type of car driven by the gunman who shot Smalls, and Poole said a friend of Mack's resembles a police sketch of the shooter.

CNN was unable to reach Mack for comment, but when allegations of his involvement in Smalls' slaying originally surfaced more than a decade ago, his criminal defense attorney Donald Re called the claims ridiculous.

Poole also assisted Smalls' family in their wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department alleging a cover-up in the investigation.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks was the chief of police when Poole was investigating, and he told CNN the accusations about a police cover-up are "absurd."

"We would have never ignored a lead that could have helped us solve that murder," Parks said.

Perry Sanders, Voletta Wallace's attorney, told CNN the family's lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2002, was put on hold in April after Los Angeles police said turning over evidence from the case would interfere with a beefed up investigation. Mack was released from federal prison on May 14.

–CNN Senior Producer Michael Cary contributed to this report.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. BassMaster

    I'm going with Suge being involved with both murders! Pac was on his way out of Death Row Records...

    January 7, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  2. Bill Dukes

    Thug life leads to thug death.

    January 6, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  3. adam

    when he ask the guy if he had anything to do w/ tupac's death, he nodded his head yes and said no...the body can't help reacting to the right answer when you say the wrong one, so in essence he can't help the head nod because he is lying when he said no. he did have something to do with it. it's scientific fact. they should look at him closer

    January 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  4. Jo

    A case is NEVER too cold. And it is hard to believe it's been that long. They'll figure it out.

    January 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  5. Five7

    It was all a dream/...

    January 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  6. MackV3

    No more than I believe the lie that red states and blues states were the reason that George W. Bush was installed as president in 2000,do I believe that Tupac and Bigger were murdered because of some made up East-West Coast rivelary. If you look at what their respective music catalogues were worth,likely in the hundreds of millions and who stood to gain by their deaths,then you have the answer as to who killed them. From what I have seen and heard,Suge Knight is nothing more than a common thug,doing whatever he has to to get his,and Puffy or Diddy or whatever he's calling himself this week is a well-dressed,no talent hack,whose only claim to fame was his attachment to Biggy. Like that of a mugger on the street,his only real talent seems to be his ability to pick who's coat tails he will get ride on. You want who killed Pac and B.I.G.,just look to the ones who have made money from their deaths,i.e.,Knight and Diddy.

    January 6, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  7. DeSean Favor

    RIP Notorious Big and 2Pac the game is not the same since they both died cause i grew up listening to them both and when they both died ive looked at clues on both of their murders and i think it was just a step up it wasnt no east coast west coast beef someone is hiding sumthin else to this story...

    January 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  8. djunior

    hmm. It will be hard to find out who did it. Case is too old and whoever done it probably dead. Suge for a fact had something to do with the murder.

    January 6, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  9. Lisah Russell

    RIP Biggie and 2Pac

    January 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  10. manamilla

    u know a man lost his life and the police dont care but we do

    January 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  11. jl taylor

    Solving this case will go along way in building respect for the law amoung a
    generation of young adults, who think that
    the only way to get justice is to take things into your own hands.

    January 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  12. Che Bravo!

    I can't believe it has been 13 years already since Biggie and Pac were murdered, even more so that the killers have not been brought to justice. Too many things point back to Death Row's relationship with shady law enforcement officers in LA. Hopefully this so-called new evidence results in some arrests. Notice the plural.

    January 6, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  13. B. A.

    Cool. It appears to be more involved than I thought it was originally. It would be nice to get these cases solved. They are surely missed by millions.

    January 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |