Detective who investigated rapper Biggie Smalls’ death is mourned online

Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie Smalls, or Notorious B.I.G., in a Los Angeles hotel room in 1997.

(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Hip-hop fans and entertainers reacted with sadness on social media Thursday at the news that a former LAPD detective who investigated the slaying of rapper Biggie Smalls died.

Russell Poole, 58, collapsed of a suspected heart attack Wednesday morning at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide bureau, where he was discussing a cold case with detectives. Officials declined to say what case Poole and investigators were discussing.

“RIP Detective Russell Poole!! Thank u 4 dedicating your life to trying to solve B.I.G.’s death,” wrote rapper Busta Rhymes on Instagram.

The 24-year-old rapper, born Christopher Wallace and known also as Notorious B.I.G., was shot to death while sitting in a car at a red light in Mid-Wilshire on March 9, 1997.


Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

The New York rapper’s death spawned countless conspiracy theories, among them that it was somehow connected to the Las Vegas slaying of rapper Tupac Shakur six months earlier because they and their respective record companies were seen as rivals.

Poole advanced the theory that Wallace’s death came from a plot involving a corrupt LAPD detective and Marion “Suge” Knight, who headed Shakur’s company when Shakur was killed. Wallace’s killing was retaliation, Poole suggested.

Music journalist Jeff Weiss wrote about Poole’s theory just two months ago and commented on his death on Twitter.


“RIP to Russell Poole. One of the few LAPD officers with supreme integrity. No one chased the truth about Biggie and Pac’s deaths harder,” he wrote. “This is really sad. Poole was a razor sharp detective. We’d talked a lot recently about doing a big story aiming to re-open the Pac death.”

Poole’s death is not considered suspicious. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Poole’s theory suggested that Reggie Wright Jr., the former head of security for Knight’s record label, Death Row, provided information on Wallace’s whereabouts the night he was shot.

In an interview with hip-hop news website, Wright said Poole was wrong and that Poole’s death was “karma.”

Knight is in jail awaiting a possible murder trial in a separate incident and was never implicated in Wallace’s killing, nor were his associates.

Times archives show that Poole quit the police force in 1999 after a series of disputes over the direction of multiple investigations, including Wallace’s murder.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.



First wolf pack found in California in nearly a century

Caitlyn Jenner could face manslaughter charge in deadly PCH crash

4 make unauthorized parachute jump from Coronado Bridge

Get our Essential California newsletter