Prosecutors filed murder and attempted murder charges Monday against former rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, four days after officials say he barreled his red truck into two men in a parking lot in Compton, killing one of them.
Knight was out on bail in a robbery case when he ran down the men and fled the scene, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The charges, which carry a life prison sentence, mark the most serious yet for the gangster rap impresario whose legal troubles have frequently lived up to the life glamorized by the music genre.
Video taken outside Tam’s Burgers captured the fatal incident in the parking lot, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Biddle said.
“It looks like an intentional act,” said Biddle, an investigator who watched the video but declined to give more details.
Knight, 49, is accused of killing 55-year-old Terry Carter and running down Cle “Bone” Sloan, who officials said has been released from a hospital.
Biddle said authorities were still trying to track down witnesses.
“There’s a whole bunch of people we still need to interview,” he said, “but no one is coming forward to cooperate.”
The confrontation began Thursday when Knight and Sloan began arguing on the set of “Straight Outta Compton,” a biopic about the group N.W.A, said sheriff’s homicide Lt. John Corina. Later in the day, Knight and Sloan confronted each other again in the parking lot of the burger joint, authorities said.
Knight’s attorney, James E. Blatt, had previously told reporters that his client was assaulted and, while trying to get away from his attackers, accidentally ran over the two men. Blatt could not be reached for comment after the charges were filed.
Carter’s cousin, Avis Ridley-Thomas, described the victim as a business associate of Knight’s but added that Carter’s family did not consider them friends.
She said Carter was instrumental in getting the biopic filmed in Compton and that he saw the movie as a way to improve the working-class community’s unfair reputation.
“He was always trying to put Compton in a positive light and to fight all the negativity that Compton experiences,” said Avis Ridley-Thomas, the wife of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Carter’s friend Skipp Townsend described him as a versatile businessman known for generosity. From the second floor of his car repair shop, where he fixed low-riders, Carter ran Heavyweight Records, which drew visits from rappers such as Ice Cube and Mack 10, Townsend said.
“He was an entrepreneur,” Townsend said. “He could have three or four businesses going on at one time.”
The two men met in 1983, when Townsend went to Carter looking to buy a BMW and the businessman refused to strike a deal. Instead — as was his style — Carter saw it as a chance to pass on some wisdom.
“What I was trying to do was keep up with the Joneses; I wanted to live a lifestyle that I couldn’t afford,” Townsend said. “I wasn’t ready — he gave me that advice.”
Carter took in foster children, and it wasn’t uncommon to run into someone who described themselves as Carter’s son, Townsend said.
“He helped a lot of people,” said Townsend, who said he also knew Knight.
Townsend was shocked by the news of Carter’s death. He said he had seen the two men riding in Knight’s truck in Compton a few months ago.
“I just know that they definitely have a relationship and they talked,” he said. “They’ve known each other for years.”
Knight built Death Row Records into a music powerhouse. But even with success, he was unable to escape the violence embodied by gangster rap.
In 1996, Knight was at the wheel of a BMW in Las Vegas when rapper Tupac Shakur, a passenger, was shot. Shakur died a week later, and the case has not been solved.
Knight served time behind bars for assaults.
In August, he and two others were shot inside a packed West Hollywood nightclub at a party hosted by singer Chris Brown. In October, Knight and comedian Micah “Katt” Williams were charged with robbery after authorities accused them of stealing a photographer’s camera. Knight faced 30 years to life in prison in that case, but he was released on bail.
In the latest case, Knight is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Compton. His bail, which had been set at $2.2 million, was revoked Monday.
Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.