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Police Raids Target Violence Sparked by Shakur’s Death

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a series of gang raids aimed at ending violence sparked by the murder of rap star Tupac Shakur, more than 300 law enforcement officers swept Compton and nearby areas Wednesday, arresting 23 people, including a reputed Lakewood gang member wanted for questioning in connection with Shakur’s death.

The sweep, which was set in motion before dawn and involved 11 law enforcement agencies, appeared to stem from street rumors in Compton that Shakur was killed in a gang dispute.

Although Shakur had no known ties to gangs in that community, Marion “Suge” Knight, who heads Death Row Records, for which Shakur recorded, grew up in Compton and has been widely identified as having an allegiance to a local Bloods set.

But it was not clear whether police were searching for a particular suspect in Shakur’s death or rousting local troublemakers in search of a solid lead. In the weeks since the Sept. 7 attack in Las Vegas that claimed Shakur’s life, detectives handling the case have repeatedly said that witnesses have been uncooperative. Two Las Vegas police detectives participated in Wednesday’s raids and hope to interview each of those arrested.

At the same time, Compton police have had repeated warnings from informants that the attack on Shakur triggered a flurry of retaliatory violence. Initially, those warnings were dismissed by police, but Compton Police Capt. Steven M. Roller said Wednesday that as many as a dozen local shootings--including three fatalities--may have been payback for the attack on Shakur.

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Among the many sources of conjecture that surfaced in the murky wake of the Shakur shooting was a story recounted by his close associates shortly after the attack, parts of which have been confirmed by police.

On the night of the shooting, Shakur and Knight had gone to Mike Tyson’s heavyweight bout at the MGM Grand Hotel, and on their way out, Shakur got into a fight with a man, which was recorded on a security videotape.

Las Vegas police said the fight was broken up by hotel security, and the other man, whose name they would not release, declined to press charges. Friends of Shakur said later that the man he fought with was a Crip. While Death Row Records and its associates had generally transcended gang rivalries for profit’s sake, this humiliation was too much for the man to take, one source said, adding: “You just can’t let that go.”

About three hours later, as Shakur and Knight were stopped at a red light on a crowded thoroughfare just off the Las Vegas Strip, a white late-model Cadillac pulled up in the next lane and peppered Knight’s 750 BMW with gunfire. Knight, who was driving, was grazed in the head, but Shakur was hit four times. He died six days later.

Las Vegas detectives have repeatedly downplayed the MGM altercation, saying that there was no way the man who had fought with Shakur could have tracked him down, and noting that hours had elapsed before Shakur was shot.

On Tuesday night, however, Las Vegas Police Lt. Larry Spinosa said police “are taking another look at everyone who might have been related to the incident, including the guy in the video.”

It was unclear whether that incident was connected to Wednesday’s sweep, in which agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the California Department of Justice, the California Youth Authority, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office burst into 37 homes.

Clad in black masks, helmets and bulletproof vests, agents set off flash-bang diversionary devices at some locations and kicked in doors at houses in Compton, Long Beach, Lakewood, Paramount and unincorporated county areas, rousting suspects from their beds.

Police carted off the suspects to a booking center set up in the Compton police parking lot. Investigators seized an assortment of rifles, handguns and machine pistols, three bulletproof vests, $17,000 in cash and two pounds each of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Among those arrested in the sweep was Orlando Anderson, 22, identified by police as a member of a local set of Crips. Anderson was arrested as a suspect in an April murder unrelated to Shakur’s death and in one of the alleged retaliation shootings. Law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he is believed to have been involved in the attack on Shakur.

Anderson did not appear to be the man in the hotel video, and Spinosa said there was no indication that he was any more of a suspect in Shakur’s death than anyone else arrested Wednesday.

One law enforcement source involved in the raid said Compton police zeroed in on Anderson based on unconfirmed tips from street contacts. The source, however, was skeptical about the likelihood of gleaning much from his arrest.

Anderson’s family expressed outrage at his arrest. A man identifying himself as his brother accused police of “scapegoating” Anderson.

“Tupac Shakur, the talented musical genius, fell at the hands of a violent, cruel drive-by shooter,” the man told City News Service. “That person, however, is not Orlando.”

Times staff writers Shawn Hubler, Robert Lopez, Chuck Philips and Frank Williams contributed to this story.


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