A new team of Los Angeles Police Department detectives is investigating the 1997 murder of rap artist Notorious B.I.G., a top city attorney told City Council members Thursday.
In answer to questions about how a lawsuit alleging department involvement in the killing led to a costly court defeat, Assistant City Atty. Don Vincent told the council's public safety committee that a new group of Robbery-Homicide Division detectives had been assigned to the case. But he said there was no evidence that police played any role in the slaying.
"They are investigating it, following up on the leads," Vincent said.
Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, was nearing the zenith of his career when he was gunned down March 9, 1997, at the age of 24, after a record industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The Brooklyn-born rapper's mother, sister and widow, recording artist Faith Evans, filed suit alleging that rogue LAPD Officer David A. Mack, a convicted bank robber, orchestrated Wallace's killing on behalf of Death Row Records chief Marion "Suge" Knight, and that department brass covered it up.
Four days into the trial last summer, a tip to a plaintiffs' lawyer led the LAPD to unearth previously undisclosed statements from an informant who said Rafael Perez, the disgraced officer central to the Rampart police corruption scandal, had confessed to participating with Mack in the killing.
City lawyers protested that the statement was unreliable, and that the transcript of it had been misplaced inadvertently. Noting that the copy was found in LAPD Det. Steven Katz's desk, however, Cooper ruled that the evidence was concealed deliberately, declared a mistrial and later ordered the city to pay a $1.1-million sanction to the Wallace family. A retrial is expected later this year.
Councilman Dennis Zine on Thursday blamed sloppy detective work for the court defeat, and cautioned that the sanction was "a tremendous amount of money and it's not over yet."
"I've got some real serious questions about how this goes down, and what the Police Department has done," he said.