Day Three: Fearing gang-related violence, hospital authorities step up security. Between UMC security, LVPD, and Death Row bodyguards, the trauma unit is all badges, brawn, and walkie-talkies. Outside, a local Channel 3 news van backfires twice and everybody in earshot drops to the ground. At about 8 p.m. police and Tupac's crew get into a shouting match that results in people getting handcuffed and detained by police. LVPD's Gang Sergeant Cindi West calls it "a misunderstanding."
Rumors abound. Depending on who you ask, Tupac is either on his way to the morgue or in intensive care puffing on a cigarette. In truth, he's alive but experiencing respiratory trouble. Surgeons decide to go in a second time and remove 'Pac's shattered right lung. "You can live with one lung," says Dr. Jonathan Weissler, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Southwestern Medical in Dallas. "And after a while you can live quite well with it."
After hours of unconsciousness, Tupac momentarily opens his eyes. Hearts are lifted.
Day Four: The entire hip hop world is turned on its ear. Overzealous reporters suggest that the shooting is tied to the East Coast- West Coast rivalry. A few speculate that it may be gang-related. Among the names being thrown about are the Notor ious B.I.G. and Mobb Deep (who are both entangled in protracted lyric feuds with Tupac), Las Vegas Crips, Los Angeles Crips, even Death Row employees. At least one Bad Boy Entertainment staffer receives death threats, and the New York-based label cancels a scheduled appearance of some of their artists.
"That this is gang-related is still pure speculation," says Sergeant Manning. "We have to run by facts." The entire Death Row organization, according to one employee, has been put under a gag order by higher-ups. LVPD, frustrated by the lack of coopera tion from Tupac's camp, complain to the press. "The problem is a lack of forthrightness," says Manning, barely concealing his disgust. "It amazes me when they have professional bodyguards who can't even give an accurate description of the vehicle." Meanwh ile Suge, who was released from the hospital with minor head wounds, is nowhere to be found.
In the trauma unit there's meditation and prayer. Tupac's aunt, Yaasmyn Fula, a tall, regal woman, removes her glasses and wipes her puffy eyes. "I'm just really, really tired," she says quietly. Afeni Shakur, 50, a woman of small frame and formidable grace, looks about the same. The former Black Panther who 'Pac calls Mama seems to carry the weight of the world upon her small shoulders. Visiting hours are almost over and she returns to the hotel for an hour or two of restless rest. 'Pac is still in cr itical condition.
Family members silently get into a plain blue Chrysler. An older man wraps his arms around Afeni, and she leans in heavily as the car drives away.
Day Five: The morning brings news of a murder in Los Angeles. A Compton bodyguard, who police say is connected with the Southside Crips, has been shot in his car and pronounced dead at Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital at 9:53 a.m. The rum or is that the homicide was payback for Tupac being shot. "Someone just drove up alongside and blasted him," says LAPD homicide detective Mike Pariz. "This is only the beginning," says a Compton resident. "The gang shit is about to be on."
Suge makes himself available to the LVPD for questioning. Investigators review a videotape from the MGM taken the night of the Tyson fight, which reportedly shows Tupac and others in a confrontation with an unknown black man dressed in jeans and a T-sh irt. "This happened at approximately 8:45 p.m.," says Sergeant Manning. "Kicking and punching were involved." Authorities won't reveal whether Tupac or Suge personally assaulted the man. Once police officers arrived at the scene they asked if the victim w anted to file a complaint. He said "Forget it" and walked away. Officers never got a name. "There is no reason to believe that these incidents are at all connected," says Manning.
Day Six: Tupac, his eyes closed and his remaining lung inflamed, ("Ready to Die," cont.) struggles for his life. He's connected to a respirator, his body convulsing violently at times. Doctors induce paralysis for fear of 'Pac hurting himself. D r. John Fildes, chairman of the hospital's trauma center, gives him a 20 percent chance of survival. "It's a very fatal injury," he says. "A patient may die from lack of oxygen or may bleed to death." Despite newspaper headlines like WOUNDED TUPAC IS UNLIKELY TO LIVE, family members hold out hope.
Day Seven: "This is Dale Pugh, marketing and public relations director for the University Medical Center," says a hospital hotline answering machine. "This message is being recorded at approximately 5:15 p.m. on Friday, September 13. Tupac Shaku r has passed away at UMC at approximately 4:03 p.m. Physicians have listed the cause of death as respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest."
At the hospital there's a stillness, a surreal calm. The contradictions of Tupac's many worlds are converging. More than 150 people are gathered out front: dark young girls and their mothers, lanky young men with combs in their uncombed heads; others w earing do-rags, professional women, young Native-American 'bangers and children-dozens and dozens of children. Detached reporters wait with the teary-eyed. A blond, blue-eyed cop stands next to a white boy with dollar signs tattooed on his neck.
Surrounded by family, Afeni dashes out of the trauma unit, quiet determination etched on her face. "She is an extremely spiritual person," says a family friend. "I think she knew. She had given her only son to God long before this day."
A member of Tupac's crew leaves the trauma room soon after. He stares down a hospital staffer and screams: "Why the f*ck you let him die, yo?! Why the f*ck you let him die?"
Behind him, Yakki, Tupac's cousin, who's been at 'Pac's side since forever, walks out, red in the face. Death Row artist Danny Boy comes in tube socks and slippers, tears falling from behind half-and-half glasses. He bends down on one knee as if in pra yer.
There's a trace of crimson in the clouds. Suddenly three shining cars appear and Suge Knight steps out of a black Lexus in a Phoenix Suns T-shirt, the wound up top his head barely noticeable. His massive figure quiets the crowd. He enters the trauma ce nter hugging Danny Boy around the neck and talking quietly with members of Tupac's family. Without his running mate Tupac, Suge seems more solitary. After a few minutes he turns to leave, taking pulls on a barely lit cigar and leaving whispers in his wake .
As the minutes go by, an almost festive atmosphere develops outside. Cars roll up bumping Tupac songs. Children begin running beyond their mothers' reach. One little boy in naps and slippers lies down between two parked cars, glancing up mischievously to check if anyone sees him.
The press packs it up. The crowd begins to disperse. A black Humvee circles the hospital, blaring "If I Die Tonight."
"I'll live eternal / Who shall I fear / Don't shed a tear for me nigga / I ain't happy here." The resoluteness in 'Pac's voice is cathartic. "I hope they bury me and send me to my rest / Headlines readin' murdered to death / My last breath....
Such eerily prophetic lines were not unusual for Tupac, who seemed to be rehearsing his death from early on. For him, it was valor over violence, destiny over death. But if his listeners were forewarned, they were still unprepared. "Now it's real," say s Vibe writer Robert Morales. "This scene has lost its cherry. All the shit people have been talking in the past five years, all the dissing and posturing, has led to this. Hip hop has crossed a line, and it's gonna be hard to cross back."