*Warning long read.*
Fifteen years after Biggie's murder, retired detective Greg Kading debunks a few bogus theories and explains why the case will never officially be solved.
According to the police detective who spent three years investigating the murder of Biggie Smalls, the man pictured above—Wardell Fouse a.k.a Darnell Bolton a.k.a. “Poochie”—was the triggerman who killed Biggie fifteen years ago today. His fee for murdering the greatest rapper of all time? $13,000.
On March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., was shot to death while sitting in a Chevy Suburban outside of a hip-hop industry party in Los Angeles. Biggie’s drive-by shooting occurred just six months after his friend turned foe, 25-year-old Tupac Shakur, suffered a similar fate after a boxing match in Las Vegas. These killings remain the worst tragedies in hip-hop history.
Seeing the two greatest rappers of a generation cut down in their prime was bad enough. The death of two young men who were so beloved by their family, friends, and fans was worse still. Adding insult to injury, Big and Pac were both murdered on busy city streets, in view of numerous witnesses. Yet there has never been an arrest in either case and both murders remain officially unsolved to this day.
Although the police investigations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas have failed to bring the truth to light, there is no shortage of websites, documentaries, and books detailing various theories and counter-theories—ranging from rap beef and gang violence to crooked cops and government conspiracies. But the latest book to be published, Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations. by Greg Kading (second photo), is different from the rest.
Kading is neither a journalist nor a conspiracy theorist. A retired L.A.P.D. detective, he was in charge of the special task force that investigated Christopher Wallace’s murder between 2006 and 2009. After Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace filed suit against the City of Los Angeles and the L.A.P.D.—seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages—the department was highly motivated to solve the case. That’s when Kading got the assignment.
After his efforts led to two sworn confessions from people who said they played a part in the killings of Wallace and Shakur, Kading was suddenly pulled off the case. At the time, he was under investigation by L.A.P.D. Internal Affairs for allegedly making false statements on an affidavit in a separate case. However, in the end, Internal Affairs cleared Kading of any wrongdoing. Around the same time, the Wallace family’s lawsuit was dismissed.
When the 22-year veteran saw the case he built being shelved, he became so frustrated that he quit the force—but not before making copies of his evidence so that he could put all his findings into a book. His conclusions are controversial to be sure, but they are so thoroughly researched that they’re hard to ignore.
Complex caught up with Kading to talk about the results of his investigation, why no arrests have ever been made, and why he believes these cases will never be officially solved.
On Biggie’s Murder
“Suge Knight was absolutely enraged. Not only had he been shot at, but his friend [Tupac Shakur] was killed next to him in the car. Suge always knew who was responsible. He looked directly into the eyes of Keefe D, who was in the shooter’s car. Keefe D was a member of the Southside Crips and a well known person to Suge. That explains why the next day this huge war broke out in Compton between Suge Knight’s gang entourage and Keefe D’s gang entourage.
“Suge Knight ended up going to jail on a probation violation, stemming from the beating of Orlando Anderson [Ed. Note—Anderson is Keefe D’s nephew, also a Southside Crip who allegedly shot Tupac.] in the MGM Grand hotel. While Suge was in jail, he conspired with his girlfriend. Suge gave her the directive to get Poochie.
“Wardell ‘Poochie’ Fouse was paid to kill Biggie. At the time, he was a 36-year old member of the Mob Piru Bloods. According to several Death Row insiders and FBI informants, Poochie was a down-for-the-cause, hardcore gang member. Confidential sources from the Death Row entourage, the Mob Pirus, and [Suge’s girlfriend, identified in Kading's book by the alias "Theresa Swann"], said Poochie had done shootings for Suge in the past. Reggie Wright Jr.—who was the head of Death Row security—said Suge and Poochie’s relationship was different than other members of the gang. They had a very secretive and exclusive relationship.
“[Suge’s girlfriend] and Poochie agreed to terms. He received two payments, one for $9000 and one for $4000. Poochie lay in wait outside the Petersen Automotive Museum. As soon as he became aware of where Biggie was sitting in his car, he drove up and he shot him.”
On Whether The Cases Will Ever Be Solved
“It comes down to how you define solved. Both law enforcement agencies—the Las Vegas Police Department and the L.A.P.D.—have drawn the conclusions that Tupac was killed by Orlando Anderson and Biggie Smalls was killed by Wardell ‘Poochie’ Fouse.
“Those are the facts within law enforcement. They’re considered solved internally, but the public’s definition of solved is different. They haven’t gone through the judicial process and nobody has been prosecuted.
“Both shooters are dead. Orlando Anderson was killed outside a Compton record shop in May 1998. Poochie died in July 2003 as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. He was shot in the back while riding his motorcycle in Compton. He was supposedly killed as a result of in-fighting between the Mob Pirus—Suge’s Blood associates—and another Blood gang known as the Fruit Town Pirus.
“That’s all the justice that these cases will see. The co-conspirators are never going to be prosecuted. Unfortunately, the cases are so complicated and convoluted. These will never see criminal prosecution.
“The co-conspirators are absolutely known and I say that with conviction. I worked directly on these cases for years and know exactly where they stand within law enforcement. They would be very problematic prosecutions because of all of the convoluted peripheral issues that were raised during the investigation.
“The D.A. in Los Angeles knows that this is an extremely difficult situation to try and prosecute. Here’s the problem; You’ve got [Suge’s girlfriend] confessing, and then, there was a bad move by law enforcement to give her immunity. The shooter’s dead, the female confessor has immunity, so you just have Suge Knight.
“The D.A.’s office in Los Angeles has a policy: They don’t prosecute murders based on the testimony of one witness, which is now just the girlfriend. So the D.A.’s realizing, ‘OK, what are we going to do? We’re going to prosecute Suge Knight for solicitation of murder and the whole thing’s based on the testimony of his girlfriend? We can bring in all this circumstantial stuff and we can bring in the history between these crews, but ultimately, a good defense attorney’s going to say, Hey isn’t this all just an elaborate cover-up, because the L.A.P.D. actually murdered Biggie?’ The defense is going to try and turn the thing back around. So the D.A. realizes that there’s not really a potential for a successful prosecution.”
On Why He Was Taken Off The Case
“The whole renewed investigation was born out of this fear of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in this civil case. That was really the impetus to the whole investigation that I was involved in to begin with.
“Once that threat dissipated, the L.A.P.D. said, ‘You know what? We’ve spent enough time and money. We know who killed them. The D.A.’s not going to file charges. So everyone go back to work.’ And the case ended up getting shelved.
“I quit [the force] over the matter. That’s how frustrated I was. I was so disappointed that I was being removed on this very ridiculous basis. [Ed. note—Read more about Kading’s Internal Affairs investigation here.] After all that we had done, it was a personal insult.
“I could not believe that we had taken the case to near conclusion and then I got removed. They just shelved the whole case after the Wallace camp retracted their lawsuits.”
On The L.A.P.D. Saying The Investigation Is Still Open
“That’s just lip-service. That’s what a police department is always going to say—not just the L.A.P.D., any police department, about any unsolved murder case. They’re always going to say, ‘Yes, it’s an open investigation. It’s an active investigation,’ but it’s really just a way to appease those types of inquiries.
“I can guarantee you that there is no proactive investigation. Those books are on the shelf. If somebody were to call and say, ‘I have information on the Biggie Smalls murder,’ investigators would probably entertain an interview with that. They’re not out doing anything to further the case because they’ve already concluded what happened.
“It’s not active, in the sense that you would think that there are investigators out there trying to figure out clues. For all intents and purposes, it’s a stale investigation, that will never be closed—ever.”
On The David Mack & Amir Muhammad Theory
“The name Amir Muhammad was published in the Los Angeles Times as a suspect in Biggie’s murder. One of the biggest problems in the whole Biggie Smalls murder investigation was that there never was [any mention of] Amir Muhammad.
“There was a jailhouse informant in L.A. county jail named Michael Robinson, who provided this very problematic slew of different descriptors of the shooter. But he never mentioned an Amir Muhammad, he just put down the name Amir.
“Actually, Robinson said there was a guy named either Abraham, Ashmir, Amir, Kenny, or Keke. So we actually got fivedifferent names associated with this potential shooter. Then he gives all these other descriptions; He’s this Fruit of Islam guy, he’s from Compton, and all of these different descriptors of the shooter.
“Coincidentally, there’s a whole other investigation going on behind a rogue cop named David Mack who had robbed a bank. Russell Poole—the L.A.P.D. investigator, who was investigating Biggie’s murder—finds out about David Mack. There’s these very circumstantial indicators that maybe this rogue cop was involved [in Biggie’s murder]. Coincidentally, Mack has a friend named Amir Muhammad. That circumstantial connection, put this investigator down a rabbit hole.
“Now, if Russell Poole would have been responsible with that clue, he would have known that Amir Muhammad a.k.a. Harry Billups could not have been the person that was being discussed in that clue. Harry Billups had no association with Compton, no association with Crips, and no association with the Fruit of Islam.
“All of these supporting identifiers disqualify him as a possible suspect. The only thing that Russell Poole has to hold onto is simply four letters: A-M-I-R. That’s it. That’s the only thing that has ever been even circumstantially compelling. And it’s based on Russell Poole’s inability to properly treat a clue. He finds one name: A-M-I-R, and builds a whole theory behind that, because there’s a dirty-cop who has a friend named Amir.
“There was all this exaggeration of information, and a whole theory was built on it, which never had a basis but captured the popular imagination. Actually, the individual who brought that information to the L.A.P.D. recanted and said, 'I made it all up. It was all bullshit.’
“Remember, Michael Robinson never says any cop [was involved with the murder]. All the clue is, is an Amir. If you take selective information and you ignore the information that refutes your theory, you can put together a conspiracy theory and convince people of it. You’re just selecting the information that works for you.
“The L.A.P.D. always knew the problems with Russell Poole’s theory. They knew his jailhouse informants were discredited, they were unreliable, and they were lying. The L.A.P.D. knew that there was no basis whatsoever to [Poole’s] theory. Even though the public picked up on it and [author/journalist] Randall Sullivan was running with it, with his book LAbyrinth, and Russell Poole had convinced himself that it was such, the L.A.P.D. knew there was nothing behind it.”
On The Video of Biggie’s Shooting
“There is no law enforcement video of the shooting. There was surveillance, out in California, by a task force, that was looking into drug and gun activities, because they were getting ready to indict Biggie and a couple of his friends on some narcotics and some guns that they had found in his house.
“They were doing their investigation into those charges, and there was law enforcement conducting surveillance, and they admit to it. But the conspiracy theory of them being there that night and watching this thing go down and doing nothing, is absolutely ludicrous. There was no law enforcement present at the time of the murder.
“There is a video [of the shooting] that was taken by fans. Some girls from Houston shot the video. They were outside the party just filming the people walking by and they happened to catch the moment when Biggie was shot. That’s the famous video that basically shows the suspect lying in wait and shows the shooting. You never see the actual suspect in the car, but there’s a video.
“There was a misreport of a black Impala that was outside the Peterson, that the suspect had apparently driven. And then, Russell Poole draws a conclusion, ‘Look, David Mack has a black Impala.’ But what Russell Poole doesn’t do is tell people about how every single witness that was in those cars denied it being a black Impala. They said that it was a green Impala.
“Now, when you watch the video, and you dissect that video, and you slow it down and take it frame-by-frame, what you actually see is that, as cars are passing by and illuminating the side of that Impala that’s parked out front, it’s a green Impala.”
On Cops Working For Death Row
“David Mack never worked for [Death Row.] Mack never had any association whatsoever. These were Compton guys and Mack was L.A.P.D.. There has never, ever been one single viable connection with David Mack and Death Row whatsoever.
“There was one L.A.P.D. guy, named Richard McCauley, who worked off-duty on several occasions. Every other cop that worked for Death Row was either Inglewood P.D. or Compton P.D. There were cops working for Death Row, but they were not L.A.P.D. cops. That’s where this theory ultimately proved to be untrue.
“The public generalizes L.A. cops. These are distinct agencies: Compton P.D., Inglewood P.D., L.A.P.D.
“What happened was, an ex Compton cop named Reggie Wright Jr., was providing all of the legitimate security for Death Row. When he opened his security business, he hired who? His buddies from Compton P.D.—all of the guys that were working in Compton when he was there. That’s it. It’s that simple.
“The guys that were working off-duty for Death Row were highly compromised. They were present when there was criminal activity taking place, including a murder. At the El Rey theater, during a Death Row after-party, there was a Crip named Kelly Jamison in the audience. A fight broke out between this Crip and some of the Bloods that were in Suge’s circle. They dragged him outside, started beating him with chairs and bottles, and they stomped him to death. They literally stomped this guy to death.
“These off-duty Compton cops were all present and they all left the scene. They did not cooperate in the follow-up investigation with the L.A.P.D. They all just basically said, ‘I didn’t see anything.’”
On The Wallace Family’s Lawsuit
“I would be the first to tell you if the L.A.P.D. was trying to protect themselves for acting inappropriately. We were told to solve this case by any means possible. The whole purpose of the renewed task force was a response to the Wallace’s civil case, but they never said, ‘Hey, get us out of this.’ It was, ‘Just try to solve it.’
“The L.A.P.D. was not in fear of the discovery that the police were involved. So they told us, ‘Solve this case. Wherever it takes you, run with it.’ And that’s what we did. We looked into everything regarding the cops, but when you get down to it, there’s absolutely nothing.
“This is why the Wallace family had to drop their lawsuit. They came into this lawsuit trying to promote the idea [of cops working for Death Row] because of Russell Poole. Trust me, the risk management division and the L.A.P.D. Internal Affairs as well as the FBI—who opened up a federal investigation based on those allegations—looked into all of this. And there was nothing.
“That’s all been disproven and her attorneys know it. There is no David Mack. There is no Amir Muhammad. There is no evidence whatsoever that any L.A.P.D. people were working for Death Row or that they did a murder on behalf of Death Row.
“Ms. Wallace can’t sue the L.A.P.D. for negligence. She can’t sue saying, ‘You guys screwed this case up and you’re a bunch of idiots.’ Even if it’s true, there’s no legal basis for incompetence in law enforcement. Otherwise, every person who doesn’t like the way an investigation went could sue those departments.
“Remember, all the way back in 2005, Perry Sanders, the Wallace attorney, had already excused David Mack and Harry Billups from the lawsuit. because all of his witnesses were recanting, saying, ‘I made this up.’ Everybody. His whole civil suit just fell apart.”
On Nick Broomfield’s Movie Biggie & Tupac
“It was all bullshit. I’ve talked to [Biggie’s former bodyguard] Eugene Deal several times. We’ve had heart-to-hearts about that so-called ‘identification ’ of the shooter. What people don’t know is that Eugene Deal had already been previously shown a police six-pack of different individuals, and he ID’d another guy as this so-called ‘Nation of Islam’ guy he saw outside the Petersen Automotive Museum that he saw acting suspicious that night.
“When he IDs Harry Billups [a.k.a. Amir Muhammad] and says, ‘That’s the guy,’ it’s a very dramatic moment in the video. But when I asked him he completely recanted and said, ‘I didn’t mean to say that was the guy. All I meant to say was that it looked like the guy. There were similarities in the photograph.’ It was a bunch of games being played. One of the factors was that Harry Billups’ photograph was already run in the Los Angeles Times as a suspect in Biggie’s murder.”
On Chuck Philips’ L.A. Times Story Alleging That Biggie Provided The Gun For Pac’s Killing
“The Timesretracted that story. I know the clue that Chuck Philips relied on for that article, and it never actually mentioned Biggie. This is extremely important because it was misreported intentionally. Biggie’s name was never, ever mentioned in that clue.
“After going through all the research in both of these cases—and I’ve read it all—there was never any indication whatsoever that Biggie had any idea what happened with Tupac in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Voletta Wallace, she had to suffer that defamation of her son.
“It’s all BS. Biggie was trying to suppress this whole conflict. Biggie wanted nothing to do with it. Biggie felt horrible that Tupac had gotten robbed and that Tupac believed that he had been behind it. In everything that we saw and read in all the interviews, Biggie was an innocent bystander in this whole thing.
“Chuck Phillips knew they couldn’t really publish the story with the facts of that clue. Like I said, I read that clue that he relied on. I know exactly who that source was. It was a Southside Crip gang member, who was in a position to know. A tactical decision was made, ‘Hey, Biggie can’t sue us; he’s dead.’ So it was just irresponsible and reckless reporting.”
On The Response To His Book Murder Rap
“I think the L.A.P.D. is very disappointed because I went public with all of this. It makes them look negligent and incompetent with the investigation. So there’s a little bit of embarrassment. I’m sure they’re not happy with it but that’s the extent of it.
“It’s kind of funny. The people who are most opposed to me writing the book and putting this information out there are the people who have the alternate theories, who are now losing money.
“You’ll probably laugh at this; There’s a series of videos called Tupac Assassination, and it proposes the theory that Tupac was killed by Suge. I guess they were moderately popular videos with this really ridiculous proposal. This guy named R.J. Bond who is the director/writer/producer of the venture has filed an official complaint against me with the L.A.P.D.
“He’s so pissed off because we disproved his theory and obviously there’s no more money coming in if people aren’t buying into that theory. He and several other people have had these alternative theories that were really implausible, but now when we bring the truth out, it completely refutes their position.
“People aren’t really interested in what’s true and what’s provable. They’re only interested in what’s going to put money in their pocket. So it just goes to show that they were really never big fans of [Biggie and Tupac] or that they have a pursuit of truth. They just want to propose their theories because it brings in money.”
On His Motivation For Writing The Book
“The burden of knowledge is heavy. I wanted to get the information out and move on. I hated the idea that the public had been so deceived, in regards to both of these murder investigations. I hated the idea that this information would always be suppressed because of law enforcement.
“I’ve got an obligation to educate the public as to what really happened. And to let the families know what the investigation entailed, so that they could at least have that peace of knowing everything that law enforcement knows about the cases.
“I didn’t make money off the book. It was self-published. I had a very lucrative offer from Random House, and after they legally vetted it, they decided they could not publish it because of what they termed ‘reckless endangerment.’
“Random House felt that it would put people in harm’s way. They wouldn’t want blood on their hands, and particularly, they thought that by outing [Suge’s girlfriend], Suge might retaliate against her. So Random House decided not to publish it and this was after we had written a complete manuscript.
“I decided to self-publish it, which is not a cheap venture. So I incurred quite a bit of debt over it, and I haven’t even regained that. Self-publishing is not a lucrative venture. [Laughs.]”
On The Aftermath
“I can guarantee you that you will never see criminal prosecution in either of these cases, but Voletta Wallace knows who killed her son. She knows that individual then died a violent death himself. The co-conspirators, yes, they have gotten away with it, but they have been exposed publicly. Suge Knight knows that everybody knows that he was behind Biggie’s murder.
“[Suge’s girlfriend "Theresa Swann"]—she’s in hiding. She knows that her kids, the community at large, and everybody in the hip-hop community knows that she and Suge conspired to kill Biggie. The shooter’s dead. That’s as close to justice as these cases will ever see.
“Mrs. Wallace could pursue a civil case against Suge Knight, but her attorneys know that there’s nothing to gain. Let’s say that you find Suge Knight civilly liable for the murder of Biggie. You get nothing out of it.
“Suge Knight doesn’t have a pot to piss in. He’s broke. So unfortunately—and my heart goes out to her—this is as close to justice as we will ever see, in our judicial system. Now, if there’s street action, and one of Biggie’s zealots decides to take matters into his own hands, that’s a different story.
“It’s just a huge law enforcement travesty. It’s a huge travesty in all senses, but there’s so many people responsible for why this didn’t get solved: All the lying informants, the incompetence on the investigators’ part. All of the different factors that prevented this from getting solved should have never happened.
“That’s frustrating because these were very solvable cases. The failure to cooperate by the witnesses and the people that were around these camps, law enforcement’s inability to penetrate that barrier—there’s so many unfortunate factors. Everybody ultimately owes some sincere apologies, at least, to both Voletta Wallace and Afeni Shakur.”
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