The former rap impresario Marion “Suge” Knight, a founder of Death Row Records, and two others were shot early Sunday inside a packed West Hollywood nightclub at a pre-awards party hosted by singer Chris Brown.
The 1OAK on West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard was thrown into chaos as multiple shots were unleashed inside the cavernous club, sending clubgoers screaming and shouting into the streets with their hands in the air. Sheriff’s deputies descended on the club about 1:30 a.m., but a suspect in the shooting was able to escape as the large crowd flooded the strip.
Knight, 49, walked from the club with several bullet wounds and was helped into a sheriff’s cruiser before being stretched away by paramedics. He underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and is expected to survive. A man and woman were also wounded and are being treated at a Los Angeles hospital following the pre-MTV Video Music Awards party hosted by Brown, who also was celebrating his upcoming album. A trail of blood led from the door of the club to the curb where Knight climbed into the sheriff’s cruiser.
The Death Row Records founder is no stranger to gunfight, having been previously shot in 2005 at another pre-awards party hosted by Kanye West in Miami, and most famously was driving the BMW 750 in 1996 when Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas. In that incident, Knight was hit by bullet fragments.
As a Death Row impresario, Knight fueled the career of many legendary rappers but also saw some of his employees gunned down by gang violence.
Sheriff’s officials said it was too early to say whether Knight was an intended target. “At this point we’re still collecting forensics and doing interviews,” said Nicole Nishida, a sheriff's department spokeswoman.
Law enforcement sources said a preliminary investigation suggests Sunday’s shooting is connected to gang rivalry and Knight's long-standing connections with Compton’s Bloods gang. Sources said several known members of the Bloods gang were present at the party. Detectives are reviewing video footage of the event to see whether they can identify the shooter.
Several partygoers posted on Twitter and Instagram video clips of the event, in which shots can be heard and revelers seen ducking before heading for the doors.
Chris Brown said Sunday morning on Twitter: “It's disappointing that we as a society can't have fun or enjoy ourselves without any altercations sometimes.”
The shooting took place the night before the MTV Video Music Awards, which are to be held Sunday at the Forum in Inglewood. Brown was quickly surrounded by a security entourage after the shooting.
West Hollywood’s mayor deplored the shooting Sunday as unacceptable.
“This was just a regular night of fun on the Sunset Strip, and it was disrupted by criminals,” said Mayor John D’Amico. “Hopefully the Sheriff’s Department will find out who the person or persons were and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
A witness told The Times that when the shooting occurred, he first thought it was part of the show at the club.
“It was 1:30. I was about to leave, and all of a sudden I heard gunshots,” he said. “I saw a bunch of people running out. I ran out with them. We were standing outside. Everything was fine at that time. They had it figured out. The cops had their guns drawn toward the doors, and it was a crime scene,” he said. The witness said Chris Brown was up on a table as everyone ran from the club.
Knight’s family called for prayers for the mogul. “The family of Suge Knight asks that you keep Suge in your prayers and to stray away from the negativity portrayed by the media,” Knight's family said in a statement to Revolt. “Suge is currently resting and has lost a lot of blood; he's human. He's done a lot of things for the community and the culture as a whole so we ask that you respect that.”
Knight brought a street mentality to the recording business, cofounding Death Row with Dr. Dre after getting the former NWA member out of a deal with Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records.
Dr. Dre’s debut album, “The Chronic” in 1992, was a hit and became a blueprint of sorts for West Coast gangster rap. The production style of incorporating slow hypnotic grooves, soulful vocals and heavy samples of Parliament and Funkadelic birthed the G-funk subgenre. Snoop Dogg’s equally influential debut, “Doggystyle” – it too boasted Dre’s production – arrived shortly after.
Knight's style and tactics often echoed in the streets with brutal encounters. They came to a head in 1997 when he was sentenced to nine years in prison for violating terms of his probation from an earlier assault case. He was released from prison in 2001 after serving fewer than five years, but was sent back to jail in 2003 for violating parole when he hit a parking-lot attendant.
Knight filed for bankruptcy in 2006, citing civil litigation against him. The following year, his Malibu mansion was put up for sale. He was arrested in August 2008 in Las Vegas on suspicion of drug possession and aggravated assault. In February 2009, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. His plea allowed the dismissal of two felony drug charges and one felony coercion charge stemming from the 2008 incident.
While keeping a low profile, Knight continued to have brushes with law enforcement. In 2011, he was sentenced to three years' probation for driving on a suspended license.
The stretch of Sunset near the club reopened Sunday afternoon and tour buses passed by 1OAK.
“Right inside, a shooting happened last night,” one driver said in an open-air bus while riders held up their smartphones, taking photos of the deputies out front and an Australian TV news crew doing a standup in front of the club, which still had yellow police tape around it.
Few signs of the shooting remained late Sunday: a few blood marks across the sidewalk, broken drink glasses, a bottle of Patron and an abandoned pair of high heels.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times