LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Were LAPD officers involved in the murder of rap superstar Christopher Wallace, better known as “Notorious B.I.G.”? And if so, did the department try to cover up their involvement?
Fourteen years after the fatal shots were fired, these questions are still being asked.
On March 9th, 1997, Wallace was leaving a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax when witnesses say a lone gunman in a black Chevy Impala pulled up next to him, calmly rolled down the window, opened fire, then calmly drove away.
Eight years later in 2005, a civil trial brought by the Wallace family against the city of Los Angeles exposed evidence hidden by the LAPD that suggests two rogue police officers David Mack and Rafael Perez may have been involved in the murder of the rapper also known as “Biggie Smalls”.
This potentially explosive evidence involves an alleged conversation between former LAPD officers Rafael Perez and Perez’s cellmate in the L.A. County jail.
The federal judge in the case writes that the inmate reported that Perez had told him about his and Mack’s involvement with Death Row Records and their activities at the Petersen Automotive Museum the night of Biggie Smalls’ murder.
Death Row Records was the label behind another rap superstar, Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in Las Vegas just months before Wallace’s death.
The original lead detective investigating Wallace’s murder says Mack and Perez had close ties to Death Row.
Months after Wallace was killed, officers Mack and Perez were convicted for unrelated crimes — Mack for bank robbery, Perez for stealing cocaine and other serious felonies.
According to a newly-revealed court record, Perez’s cellmate told investigators “Perez and Mack were involved in Death Row Records. Perez got involved in Death Row through Mack.”
“They went to all their parties and stuff,” the inmate said.
Investigators say Perez also told the inmate he was at the scene of the Wallace murder.
“Perez was working security. Perez had a cell phone. Perez said he called over to Mack, David Mack on his cell phone. Perez told Mack that Biggie Smalls was in his truck. Perez never said that he set up Biggie Smalls but I have heard that he…had something to do with that murder,” according to the inmate.
Former lead investigator Russell Poole says these statements are just a glimpse into hundreds of pages of documents that were hidden from Wallace family attorneys.
Poole, who resigned from the LAPD in 1999 and alleges an cover-up by the department, says these statements are “crucial” and that the murder must be put into a historical context: first beginning with the Rodney King beating five years prior and the ensuing riots, followed by the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995.
Poole says in the racially-charged environment surrounding these key cases, the last thing the city wanted was a scandal involving sworn minority officers involved in the assassination of a hip-hop superstar.
Wallace family attorney says money could be another possible reason for any LAPD cover-up.
Officer Perez was on-duty the night of the murder, and if his involvement was affirmed, the city could potentially be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Both Perez and Mack have repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder.
The LAPD says it can’t comment on the case since it is still under investigation — and sources say criminal investigators continue to follow up on new leads in this 14-year-old murder investigation that so far have come up empty.
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