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Motive in slaying of Pop Smoke a mystery: ‘We have some work to do,’ LAPD says

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An LAPD officer directs investigators to home in the Hollywood Hills where Pop Smoke, a rising New York rapper, was fatally shot Wednesday morning.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities said it’s too early to determine a motive for the slaying of up-and-coming rapper Pop Smoke, who was fatally shot early Wednesday at a Hollywood Hills home.

While initial reports described the fatal encounter as a home invasion robbery, Los Angeles Police Department officials said they are still trying to sort out what happened.

“I am not comfortable calling it a robbery right now,” Robbery Homicide Division Capt. Jonathan Tippet said. “There is a lot of information available. We have some work to do.”

Tippet said detectives are looking for evidence in the neighborhood as well as scanning the internet for clues.

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“There is a lot of social media information out there. The house is in a neighborhood surrounded by video cameras,” he said.

Law enforcement sources who were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and asked for anonymity said they are aware the rapper may have inadvertently posted to social media an image showing the address of the home where he was staying. But detectives are being cautious and aren’t ruling out other aspects.

Because Pop Smoke was considered by law enforcement to be affiliated with the Crips street gang, detectives suspect the slaying is gang-related and the assailants are likely gang members, but it has not been determined whether the killing was motivated by a gang rivalry, officials said.

Officers responded to the home in the 2000 block of Hercules Drive after someone calling from the East Coast reported that several people, at least one of whom wore a black mask and was armed with a handgun, had entered their friend’s home in Los Angeles shortly before 5 a.m., LAPD Capt. Steve Lurie said.

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When officers arrived at the $2.5-million mansion, they found the 20-year-old rapper, whose legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, with gunshot wounds.

He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Officers detained several people inside the house, but they were later released. At least four suspects fled the scene, authorities said.

Photos and videos on Pop Smoke’s Instagram story showed him in L.A. on Tuesday, getting a haircut and posing by the pool in the backyard of the home where he was later killed. In the evening, he posted a photo of the Los Angeles skyline from what appeared to be the home’s backyard.

The Hollywood Hills home is owned by Teddi Mellencamp of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and her husband, Edwin Arroyave, according to property records. Mellencamp wrote on Instagram that she was informed about the shooting early Wednesday by the leasing and management company that oversees the rental property.

“Foremost, we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to the family and loved ones affected by this tragic loss of life,” she wrote.


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