Long-sealed Notorious B.I.G. autopsy released, LAPD apologizes to family

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by Anthony McCartney
AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police detectives apologized to the family of Notorious B.I.G. for failing to warn them about the planned release of his autopsy report more than 15 years after he died in a drive-by shooting, the Los Angeles Police Department said Saturday.

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ICONIC RAPPERS–In this March 8, 1997 file photo, Notorious B.I.G., whose real name is Christopher Wallace, left, gestures as he and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs leave a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles late Saturday evening, shortly before Wallace was shot to death. (AP Photo/Venus Bernardo-Prudhomme, File)

The detectives had intended to notify the rapper’s family, but the report was released prematurely “due to an administrative error,” the department said in a statement.

“Our detectives personally spoke with the Wallace family (Friday) night, and apologized for not notifying them prior to the release” said Capt. Billy Hayes, who heads LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, which is investigating the killing. “Obviously this has been a challenging case for us to solve. We hope that witnesses or other people with information will come forward and give us the clues we need to solve this case.”

Los Angeles County’s Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey said a security hold placed on the report’s release was lifted last week. The 23-page report revealed the rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was hit by four bullets after leaving a music industry event in March 1997, but one that hit his heart, left lung and colon caused his death.

The attorney for the rapper’s family complained Friday that he was not given any notice that the report would be released and criticized police for not closing one of Los Angeles’ highest-profile unsolved murders.

Both Los Angeles police and the FBI investigated Wallace’s killing, which came just months after another rap superstar, Tupac Shakur, was gunned down in Las Vegas. The FBI looked into whether any Los Angeles police officers were involved in Wallace’s shooting.

The deaths of Wallace and Shakur have been the subject of rampant speculation about the motives. The one-time friends became rivals and instigators in an East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry during the mid-1990s.

A 2011 book by former Los Angeles police detective Greg Kading claimed both murders had been solved, although no arrests have been made and federal prosecutors in 2005 declined to file charges after a lengthy, bi-coastal investigation. Wallace is from the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Perry Sanders Jr. said he was not given any notice that the report would be released, and he criticized police for not closing one of Los Angeles’ highest-profile unsolved murders, especially since he had been told that police had identified those responsible.

“I’ve been advised by the homicide detective that was in charge of the investigation and is no longer with the department that the crime has been solved for several years now,” Sanders told The Associated Press. “This was confirmed by at least one other person who is currently on the force, and it is ridiculous that an arrest has not been made for a crime that’s allegedly been solved for several years.”

Police spokesman Richard French declined to comment, saying Wallace’s killing remained an open investigation.

The coroner’s report had been sealed for more than 15 years until police lifted a hold on it last week, Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey said. The report details the trajectory of each of the shots that hit the rapper and states there were no signs of alcohol or drugs in his system when he died.

Sanders, who dropped a federal civil lawsuit against the city in 2010 in order to give investigators an opportunity to investigate further, said solving the case was more important than any lawsuit.

“In no way shape or form is this about civil litigation,” he said. “This is about the criminal justice system and it functioning properly.”

The lawsuit Sanders filed on behalf of Wallace’s family and widow Faith Evans ended in a mistrial in 2005 after attorneys discovered the city withheld a trove of LAPD documents.

The civil case could be refiled, although that has not yet occurred.

In March 2011, the FBI electronically released files on its investigation, which were heavily redacted but shed new light on the efforts that investigators took to try to find those responsible for the rapper’s death. Agents conducted surveillance and interviews in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York, the files showed.

The FBI referred all questions on the case to Los Angeles police.

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .

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