"The roots for these feuds run very deep in Compton," said Det. Michael Caouette, a gang investigator for the Sheriff's Department. "Gang members don't forget a grudge. Word on the street is there's a hit out on Suge Knight."
Typically, gang members take vengeance swiftly. In this case, the killers worked patiently, leaving long intervals between hits. It was as if whoever was responsible wanted Knight to wait, and to worry.
After the first shooting — of "Heron" Palmer in June 1997 — there was a lull in the violence. On April, 4, 2000, the bloodshed resumed.
"Poochie" Fouse, a Knight associate, and Fouse's friend William "Chin" Walker were sitting in a white Chevrolet van on North Matthisen Avenue, a dead-end street in Compton. Just after midnight, two men rushed up, opened fire andfled.
Walker, 37, who was in the driver's seat, died an hour later. Fouse, 40, was severely injured and confined to a wheelchair for three months. He refused to cooperate with police.
Three weeks later, the body of Vence "V" Buchanan, 35, an alleged drug dealer and Bloods gang member, was found near a Compton graveyard, with a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
Buchanan's killers, disguised as police officers, had abducted him in a dark Cadillac at Central and 135th avenues. The kidnappers cuffed his hands behind his back, then brutalized him and videotaped his execution, informants have told police. The killers dumped his body outside a cemetery at Greenleaf Boulevard and Central Avenue.
Buchanan had been friendly with the disgruntled Death Row bodyguard and the drug dealer allied against Knight. They suspected that Knight orchestrated the slaying to avenge the shooting of Fouse and Walker, informants have told police. The two men allegedly set out to retaliate.
One of their targets was Alton "Buntry" McDonald, Knight's best friend. McDonald and a buddy, David "Brim Dave" Dudley, were rumored to have played a videotape of Buchanan's execution for an audience of friends at McDonald's home in Compton.
On March 25, 2001, nearly a year after Buchanan's death, Dudley was shot and killed in front of McDonald's house.
Knight was behind bars as this drama of revenge unfolded. In 1997, a judge had sentenced him to nine years in prison for violating terms of his probation from his earlier assault case.
Knight said he had no role in Buchanan's murder and did nothing to provoke the attacks on his friends.
"This feud they say is going on has nothing to do with me. I was in prison when these episodes took place," he said.
McDonald's family said he was not involved in the Buchanan killing, either.
With credit for good behavior, Knight was released from prison in August 2001, after serving less than five years. His world had been shaken, but he felt secure in the presence of McDonald. They had known each other since childhood, and McDonald was now Knight's chief bodyguard.
Eight months later, "Buntry" was cut down.
Bodyguard No. 2
It happened at a crowded Shell station at Rosecrans and Atlantic avenues on April 3, 2002. McDonald, 37, pulled in about 2:30 p.m. to fill up his black GMC Denali. He had paid the station attendant and was about to start pumping his gas when two men walked up and drew pistols.