Former rap music mogul Suge Knight, the founder of Death Row Records who is serving a 28-year prison sentence for intentionally running over and killing a man in 2015, hired an assassin to carry out the slaying of rapper Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, according to a report by the New York Post citing a retired FBI agent who investigated the case.
Phil Carson, the former federal investigator, identified the hitman as Amir Muhammad, a Nation of Islam convert who got help from rogue officers inside the Los Angeles Police Department who allegedly helped cover up the crime that to this day remains unsolved.
Christopher Wallace, who also went by the name Biggie Smalls, was shot to death March 9, 1997, as he sat in a vehicle at a red light after leaving the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles. He was 24 years old. The four 9 mm bullets that struck Wallace were fired from a black Chevy Impala that had pulled up alongside the rapper’s GMC Suburban.
“All the evidence points to Amir Muhammad,” said Carson, who worked the case for two years and recently spoke to the Post about his findings. “He’s the one who pulled the trigger ... There were plenty of others who helped orchestrate it [and] allowed him to pull the trigger.”
Carson alleges Knight hired Muhammad for the hit as retaliation for the murder of Tupac Shakur — one of the world’s most acclaimed rappers at the time — who was gunned down after attending a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas six months before B.I.G was murdered.
“Suge Knight financed the murder,” Carson told the Post. “Suge was ticked off that his cash cow Tupac was murdered. Suge had an accountant that was part of Death Row Records who helped do the financial side of things to pay for the murders.”
The amount of money paid for the hit is not known.
There is no evidence that B.I.G had anything to do with Tupac’s slaying.
Both deaths served as a tragic final act in an ongoing East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry that came to signify rap music throughout the 1990s, and which pitted Knight’s LA-based Death Row Records against the Bad Boy label run by Sean “Puffy” Combs in New York.
Muhammad’s name had surfaced previously in the B.I.G murder investigation after he briefly became a suspect in the case, however he proclaimed his innocence and was never charged by authorities.
‘I’m not a murderer’
Muhammad, whose birth name is Harry Billups, told The Los Angeles Times in a 2000 interview that “I’m not a murderer, I’m a mortgage broker,” after a story was printed that pointed to his alleged involvement.
“The story made it sound like I was some mystery assassin who committed this heinous crime and then just dropped off the face of the Earth — which is the furthest thing from the truth,” Muhammad said at the time.
Carson, however, said his claims about Muhammad are supported by eyewitness testimony and other circumstantial evidence, including the man’s shadowy connections and events that occurred around the time of the shooting that raised further suspicions.
Muhammad was reportedly a longtime friend of David Mack, a former Los Angeles police officer on Death Row’s payroll, who served time in prison for a robbery at a Bank of America branch in Los Angeles in August 1997, five months after Biggie’s murder.
The heist netted $722,000, which was never recovered, and informants told the FBI that the loot had been intended as blood money to pay off Muhammad for the hit.
Mack and Officer Rafael Pérez were deeply involved in what came to be known as the Rampart scandal, where widespread police corruption was found among LAPD officers, some of whom had been hired by Death Row Records to serve as security guards.
Mack, who was released from prison in 2010, has publicly denied the claims of further wrongdoing.
Today Muhammad is 61 years old, goes by Billups, and is said to be working as a real estate agent in Georgia.
Cover-up by LAPD alleged
More than 24 years after both shootings, Carson said his investigation into Biggie’s death was stifled at the time by numerous roadblocks and uncooperative elements inside the Los Angeles law enforcement community. He described it as a cover-up and “the biggest miscarriage of justice in my 20-year career at the FBI.”
“I had evidence that LAPD officers were involved and I was shut down by the LAPD and city attorneys inside Los Angeles,” Carson told the Post.
While the LAPD investigation into the killing officially remains open, there has been little to no activity on the matter for many years. Meanwhile, Carson and others who have examined the facts independently are calling for the case to be reopened.
The 2018 film “City of Lies,” based on the book “LAbyrinth” by Randall Sullivan, examines the investigations by the Los Angeles Police Department of the murders of B.I.G. and rapper Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down six months earlier.
Biggie would have turned 49 years old on May 21 this year.
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