Controversial hip-hop impresario Marion “Suge” Knight, co-founder of the rap label Death Row Records, was shot in the early hours Sunday at a nightclub in West Hollywood, California.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the shooting occurred at approximately 1:37 a.m. inside the nightclub 1OAK at 9039 Sunset Boulevard. Among the victims were two men—Knight, 49, and an unnamed man, 32—and a 19-year-old woman, who was allowed entry to the club despite being underage. The suspect(s) have yet to be identified, and an investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, all three victims remain in stable condition at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles.
The shooting happened at a pre-VMAs MTV bash and album release party hosted by Chris Brown, and multiple eyewitnesses from inside 1OAK who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity have provided conflicting reports, claiming that anywhere between three and six shots were fired inside the club.
When reached by The Daily Beast, Chris Brown released the following statement through his representative:
“Chris hosted an event in Los Angeles last night to celebrate the upcoming release of his album X, during which an incident occurred. This incident did not involve Chris; he was merely the host of the event,” the rep's statement said. “He has and will continue to cooperate with the investigation.”
Knight’s family, meanwhile, issued an exclusive statement to Revolt TV claiming that Knight was an invited guest of Brown’s.
“The family of Suge Knight ask that you keep Suge in your prayers and to stray away from the negativity portrayed by the media,” the statement read. “Suge is currently resting and has lost a lot of blood, he's human. He's done a lot of things for the community and the culture as a whole so we ask that you respect that.”
Katie Clendon, 21, says she was dancing directly in front of Chris Brown’s table at 1OAK when the incident happened.
“I was dancing with one of my friends,” Clendon told The Daily Beast. “My other friend called us over to the table she was at directly across the way. As I was turning around and walking away from Chris Brown’s table, I heard three loud bangs. Everyone dropped to the floor, and then immediately after evacuated. One of the men who was shot rushed past me holding his shoulder and dripping blood. Everyone was screaming and trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. The cops were immediately on the scene as we were leaving 1OAK. We saw a man being carried out on a stretcher, then we were asked to leave the area immediately.”
“It all happened so fast,” she adds. “I’m still in shock.”Clendon said bags were not checked “and there were no pat-downs” when people entered the club.
When asked whether the shooter was targeting Brown, as various outlets including the New York Daily News have claimed, Clendon says she couldn’t tell. “I can’t say whether or not he was targeting Chris. The shots were obviously targeted at his table. Chris could’ve been the target, but it could have been directed at someone at his table as well.”
Another eyewitness said, “Chris’ boys were having a tense moment with some other unknown dudes in the club” just before the shooting.
And yet another eyewitness, who goes by the Instagram handle @joyawilliams, posted the following video to her Instagram of the aftermath. In the video, you can see Chris Brown standing on top of a table and yelling at someone, before being pulled down:
Among the celebrities in attendance were Justin Bieber, who was reportedly mingling with Brown in a VIP area before the gunfire, according to an eyewitness, as well as model Tyson Beckford, and Black Eyed Peas member apl.de.ap. The Game and his posse were caught on video by TMZ about an hour and a half before the shooting getting into an altercation with security at the door to 1OAK, and the rapper was denied entry to the club, according to a source connected to 1OAK.
“The Game was coming to hang with Chris and they didn't let him in, which caused tension outside,” the source told The Daily Beast. “The Game is connected to the Bloods, and that means Chris is around Bloods.”
Another source informs The Daily Beast that MTV, which was supposed to host their post-VMAs party at 1OAK, is now shopping the event to other Los Angeles nightlife venues.
The source also says that 1OAK owners Reza Roohi and Vinny Laresca were out in Las Vegas partying with Leonardo DiCaprio, Lukas Haas, and Kevin Connolly when they heard the news of the shooting and “went right into crisis mode.”
“This was just a regular night of fun on the Sunset Strip, and it was disrupted by criminals,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “Hopefully the Sheriff’s Department will find out who the person or persons were and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
This isn’t the first time Knight’s been shot at a pre-VMAs party. In a similar-sounding incident, he was shot in the right leg at approximately 12:45 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005, in the Red Room at Miami’s Shore Club. That event was a pre-VMAs party in honor of Kanye West, and six shots were reportedly fired. Knight was taken to the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami with a fractured leg resulting from a gunshot wound, according to local police. Rapper The Game was also in attendance at that bash, as well as Jessica Alba, Eddie Murphy, and Paris Hilton, among others.
“Chris Brown and The Game always travel with gangsters,” an L.A. nightlife source told The Daily Beast. “This is the kind of thing that happens with their groups, and has happened more than once—very violent incidents, gunshots outside the club, etc. There’s a long L.A. nightclub history of this, especially with The Game.”
Brown, meanwhile, took to Twitter to vent his frustration over the incident:
And trouble seems to follow Knight wherever he goes. Back in October 1987, the rap mogul was arrested twice. The first arrest came on a domestic violence charge after he assaulted his girlfriend on the street, cutting off her ponytail, and the second occurred on Halloween, when he allegedly fired three shots at a man while attempting to carjack him. In 1989, he formed a music-publishing company, SUGE Publishing, and soon garnered a reputation for securing deals through intimidation tactics. His first coup came when he made Vanilla Ice agree to sign over royalties to his hit “Ice Ice Baby,” since the song was allegedly co-written by Knight’s client, Mario Johnson, a.k.a. “Chocolate.” Knight allegedly got Vanilla Ice to sign over the rights after he threatned to throw the rapper off the balcony of his hotel suite, according to the rapper’s 1999 episode of VH1’s Behind the Music.
Then, Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. wanted to split from N.W.A., as well as their label Ruthless Records, run by N.W.A. member Eazy-E. According to a federal racketeering lawsuit filed in 1991 by Ruthless Records, Eazy-E claimed that he signed over the rights while “under duress,” after Knight and two hired muscle showed up to his recording studio and threatened him with lead pipes and baseball bats. And like that, Death Row Records was formed.
Death Row specialized in gangsta rap, and while Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. served as co-founders, Knight was viewed as the de facto boss, helping ignite the notorious East Coast/West Coast ‘90s feud with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Mobb Deep, and Notorious B.I.G. In late 1995, rapper Tupac Shakur signed with Death Row after Knight agreed to pay his $1.4 million in bail money. The following year, both Tupac and B.I.G. were killed in similar drive-by shootings—Tupac in Las Vegas, and B.I.G. in Los Angeles. And many have speculated that Knight, who was in the BMW with Tupac when Tupac was shot, was involved in both murders.
After Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg left the label over disputes with Knight, the mogul filed for bankruptcy in 2006, and was forced to sell Death Row Records to Global Music Group in 2008. Knight’s rap sheet also includes a nine-year prison sentence in 1997 for violating his probation (he was released in 2001), a parole violation in 2003 after assaulting a parking lot attendant, an incident in 2008 where he was knocked out in the parking lot of an L.A. nightclub, and another arrest later that year when he was alleged to have been caught beating his then-girlfriend, Melissa Isaac, and threatening her with a knife. Those charges were later dropped when Isaac refused to cooperate with authorities.
The shooting of Knight comes just two weeks after a drive-by shooting occurred near the set of Universal Pictures’ N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which was filming outside the Compton Courthouse. According to TMZ, a couple of locals “flashed gang signs at a passing car,” which then proceeded to open fire, injuring a bystander. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting.