Frank Alexander (known as “Big Frank“), the former bodyguard of Tupac, talks about the night (September 07, 1996) of the Las Vegas Shooting. Frank has also published a book called Got Your Back.
Vegas was hot, but I wasn’t complaining. I was gonna see ‘Pac. While driving from LA the day before, I realised I’d missed the homie. It was my first day back at work from vacation, I’d spent most of August with my ten-year-old daughter, and I looked forward to going back to work. I was scheduled to bodyguard him through the weekend. Tupac was supposed to turn up at the Luxor hotel sometime in the afternoon, which was just as well because we had a security meeting early in the day, and I didn’t want it to conflict with his arrival. The meeting was held at a Vegas attorney’s office. Seems that for proper Nevada State to get clearance for security officers to carry guns, a letter should have been sent in advance. It was not done. No guns meant a lack of security. At the meeting the attorney confirmed we were not allowed to carry guns on us at any time especially at the club. Suge had gotten the Vegas police to agree to let him open Club 662 for the night but that didn’t mean they were happy about it.
If we were caught with a gun on us behind state lines, that’s all it would have taken for them to shut 662 down. It didn’t matter that out of the 20 guards on duty that night, most were police officers and all were legally licensed to carry weapons. Death Row couldn’t take any chances. The only way Suge got Metro to allow him to have his club open that night was because it was a benefit for some retired boxer. Once they got benefit status, he was allowed to open it. He wouldn’t have been allowed to swing it any other way, because he was having too many legal problems. It was, after all, Suge Knight’s club and anything related to Death Row didn’t particularly thrill them.
We’d hired extra security for the post-fight show that night. Run-DMC was scheduled to perform and if the last 662 performance was any indication, we could easily lose control of the crowd. Shit, when Tupac performed at 662 in November – his first show, after he got out of prison – the place got crazy. It was complete chaos. The club’s capacity is 680 but there were more than 1,000 fans that night. It was slamming but it was also out of control. Tupac, followed by Suge, David Kenner and the entire Death Row entourage, howed up late in his black Mercedes 500SL, wearing a derby hat and a vest, all charged-up to perform. Mike Tyson was there with his bodyguards, along with Dion Saunders and his entourage, and Forest Whitaker, who was drunk off his ass. Everybody who was anybody wanted in that night. Tonight, we really had to iron out security detail. The main objective was to keep the crowd under control. They didn’t want any problems because the Las Vegas police Department would shut the joint down if you dropped a match. All the rules had to be strictly enforced, and for this evening, that included leaving all guns behind. Like anyone who carries a weapon, I didn’t like being without it. It made me feel empty to be without my piece, a compact Colt 45 – a police officer’s special – that I always took with me on the job. I was never without it, I always had it on me, always, but on this one particular day I was told to leave it in my car. We were travelling in an entourage that night, so the chances of something happening were slim. That’s what I thought.
Ater the meeting we caught a ride with Reggie, he took us out to lunch at TGIF’S. When we finished eating, Reggie started bitching about Kevin Hackie, the bodyguard who replaced me when I was on vacation. They’d gotten into it over money. Kevin, who had worked with Reggie long before he hooked up with Suge to form Wrightway, when they were both policing the streets of Compton, managed to hook something up with the producers of Gang Related, the movie ‘Pac made in August. He got paid $10,000 for offering his technical advice on the shooting scenes. Reggie felt Kevin had undermined his authority by taking the ten grand and still taking money from Wrightway for bodyguarding ‘Pac. In my opinion, Kevin took what he deserved, Reggie didn’t see it that way. By now, we were at a carwash down the street from Luxor on Flamingo Road. Reggie Was spilling his guts about Kevin, and I was hearing him out, but I couldn’t help but think about Norris Anderson’s nickname for Reggie. He used to call him ‘Rona Barrett’, because he talked so much. Norris was married to Suge’s sister, and a Death Row executive. I listened to Reggie bitch all the way back to the Luxor. As soon as we got back to the Luxor, I didn’t have any trouble locating ‘Pac. The boy loved to gamble, and to find him, I just looked for the craps table surrounded by the highest percentage of hoochies. Kidada was up in her hotel room, As usual, his soldiers were right by his side. I made my way over to his table.’pac lit up When he saw me.
“Big Frank, what’s up?” ‘Pac always greeted me warmly, but this time I could tell he was particularly glad to see me, too. We all embraced – it had been a long month. ‘Pac was looking good. He was still skinny as all hell, he’d been working for a year straight with little let-up and it was taking its toll on him physically. He was sporting one of the new silky button-down shirts he’d gotten from one of the fashion designers when he was in Italy. More notably, he was boasting a new chunk of gold. A $30,000 diamond-studded medallion about three inches in diameter dangled prominently from his neck. In the middle, it had the emblem for Euphanasia, the name of a company ‘Pac had started. The image was of a muscular black angel of death, on his knees with his head tilted down by huge wings and a halo. ‘Pac and his crew always spelled names their own way and Euphanasia was his take on ‘euthanasia’, which means an easy and painless death, or a way to end suffering painlessly. I could toll he was really relaxed and up – he was always in good spirits on fight nights ’cause Tyson was hit boy.The Luxor, however, wasn’t treating him right – he was playing at a $25 table and he was losing. ‘Pac was bettor and this table wasn’t paying off so we decided to move things over to the MGM. It was about two or three pm and we had plenty of gamble before meeting up with Suge later for the fight.
While we walked over to the MGM, you could allready tell it was fight night. All the rich people were in town – sports heroes, celebrities, high rollers. You could afffiost feel the monev changing hands. We strolled over the bridge separating ” two casinos, and when we got to the MGM Grand, Tupac’s luck started to change. He began winning big. He was covering all the odds and was coming away with $1,400 to $2,000 a roll. He probably rolled the dice for two or three minutes – a long time on a craps table. Winners always attract a crowd, but as soon as people started figuring out who he was, the crowd got more serious. Tupac loved the attention. What better place for a high-roller gangsta to be seen rolling high, than in Vegas at a craps table. I started tensing up because everyone was looking to get in his face, Michael Moore had walked with us from the Luxor, and he had ‘Pac flanked on one side and I had the other. The Outlaws were staggered throughout the crowd, spread out so people wouldn’t know who they were.
Despite the size of the throng, everything was cool for a little while. When good mood, everything usually stayed pretty cool. It helped that he was on winning streak, because the Vegas code dictates you don’t disturb gamblers in action. But since it was ‘Pac, people were still trying to angle their way in. Dozens of hoochies were hitting him up for an autograph, a photograph, any piece of ‘Pac. It started getting more and more difficult to keep people out of his space, and it was getting close to fight time. I needed a phone to check in with Reggie at in case Suge was looking for him – he always wanted to know where at all times. The fucked-up thing was, I didn’t have my security staff MO-cell phone. While I was on vacation, Kevin used it and since he and Reggie were fighting, I didn’t have it on me because Kevin wasn’t coming to Vegas. I couldn’t believe I’m rolling with Death Row’s million-dollar boy, one of the biggest rap stars in the world, and I got to use a pay phone. I must’ve left him for about a minute, long enough to leave Reggie a message from a public phone a couple of feet away, before making my way back to the table. ‘Pac wasn’t there.
Goddammit, I thought to myself, he ‘s not being security conscious. All of them had taken off, leaving me behind, and they’d gone. To top it off, I was stuck without a phone for to get more and more uneasy. I circled the casino decision to walk back to the Luxor. If I had the radio. I could’ve reached anybody in the security immediately and told them ‘Pac had disappeared. I felt myself starting to panic. ‘Pac’s been kidnapped. I lost him, it’s my fault. Dammit, where the fuck is he?
As soon as I got to the Luxor, I began paging him repeatedly. I paged Michael Moore; I tried reaching Reggie. Where was everybody? Here I am, the number one guy, and I lose ‘Pac making a phone call five feet from him. It was the first time he’d ever left me, and it gave me an eerie feeling. My client had never been missing before. ” Big Frank! ” I hear ‘Pac’s voice behind me. A wave of relief passed over me. “‘Pac, where the hell you all been, man. You left me over there.” “Oh, I asked them where you were at,” he said. “Now I can’t find anybody.” Tupac Shakur, one of the most wanted men in America, had spent the last hour walking around Vegas alone. Even the Outlaws were nowhere to be found.
“Ah, Frankie, you know I can kick anybody’s ass down here,” ‘Pac boasted. “Dude, you cannot be doing this,” I told him. “You can not be shaking security, especially me, especially here in Las Vegas.”
“I ain’t worried about it.” ‘Pac, that ain’t the point. I know you can fight. The point is, you need security to step in and stop things before they happen. Do me a favor, don’t shake me anymore. Do not leave me without knowing where you’re at.” For all his bravado, he seemed distracted. It really appeared to bother him that the Outlaws were missing. He called them about half a dozen times but couldn’t reach them. The whole thing was odd, because they were always with him. He was like a pissed-off dad whose kids had run off to play.We sat down near a house phone and waited for someone to turn up. After another attempt to reach Reggie, we managed to hook-up. He told us Suge would meet us at the MGM before the fight. It was too hot to make that walk again so we decided to catch a cab.
I looked at ‘Pac, who hadn’t changed his clothes since we met at the casino. As usual, he’s not wearing his builetproof vest. It didn’t surprise me, nine times out of ten he didn’t wear it. It was always an issue between the two of us. But ‘Pac did what ‘Pac wanted to do. Before the cab driver could find a place to let us out, I sized up the crowd. It was out of control. As soon as Tupac got out, people started coming at us from all angles. “Tupac! Tupac! Tupac! Tupac!” I’m all that stands between him and them. As we’re walking through the mob, people started following us. I flagged down a MGM security guard, who could clearly see we problems. He escorted us behind the crowd out of the view of the to a private lobby near the entrance of the fight area.
We hung out there for a while, and as the fight began drawing closer, I watched Tupac begin losing patience. “I hate this shit. Suge does this all the time.” It was 15 minutes before fight time and Tupac was getting restless. The pre-fights were over and Tyson and Seldon were up next. ‘Fuck this shit, every time we go somewhere he always has to be flicking late!’ Tupac’s eyes were blazing. “I didn’t want to come to Vegas, no fuckin’ way. We gonna miss the fucking fight. ” Despite security efforts to keep crowds away from him, fans kept working their way towards him, taking pictures, asking for more autographs. I watched him get visibly more tense as each minute ticked by. “Go call Reggie and find out where he is.” I took off towards a phone knowing that he knew and I knew it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good. Suge always made him wait and this night was no different. I made the call anyway, a thinly veiled token attempt to ease ‘Pac’s tension. Waiting on Suge was a recurring problem. We’d call a meeting and wait three, four, sometimes five hours for Suge to turn up. The fact that this was a Tyson fight apparently didn’t make any difference. “I’m gonna get my own goddamn tickets,” Tupac said. But we both knew the truth: we weren’t going anywhere. We were gonna do what we always did – wait on Suge.
When he finally arrived, it was just him and one of his homeboys. He pulled out four tickets to get us in, and as we were entering, the National Anthem was playing. Security held us up, but Suge and ‘Pac continued to walk toward the ringside seats. “You’re not going anywhere till we let you go by,” said one of the officers. Oh no, here we go already. Suge and ‘Pac started to get hot-headed and I was foreseeing the first fight of the night. Luckily the anthem ended before they blew up, and we made it down the aisle to watch the fight. Which seemed to last about a minute. No matter to ‘Pac. He was jumping around hysterically because Tyson took him out so fast feat. “50 blows! 50 blows! I counted them,” he said jumping up and down with a pugilist’s pantomime. “He hit him 50 times. Bang bang bang bang bang … Boom!” With ‘PW leading the pack, we worked our way backstage, and started to mingle with the Tyson camp. We were only them for a couple of minutes before Suge gave the word to leave. This was the first time ‘Pac wouldn’t be allowed to great Tyson, which he did after every fight. I started to mull over the day, and I realised everything seemed just a beat off. I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t carry my gun, ‘Pac had left me and then lot his boys. I started getting a strong premonition that a long night lay ahead of us. As we exited the backstage area, we met up with the reel of the entourage, which included all of Suge’s homeboys and all of ‘Pac’s Outlaws. Everyone was crowding around the entrance area, and as we were standing around bullshitting about the fight, Travon – one of Suge’s homeboys – came up to ‘Pac and whispered in his left ear. What he whispered, I don’t know, but my heart sunk. It really was gonna be one of those nights. Like lightning, ‘Pac took off running, and I took off running behind him.
Orlando Anderson – I would learn his name later – stood about six fast one, and it locked like he was anticipating the arrival of someone. Not necessarily Tupac, but someone. He was standing with an MGM security guard who appeared to have him detained. Tupac started swinging and Anderson want down immediately. As he fell to the ground, the entire Death Row entourage showed up. At that point, I was pulling Tupac away from Orlando, trying to get him off him. ‘Pac’s black angel intervened. A link on his medallion broke and he stopped beating on Orlando when the necklace snapped apart. While he went down to grab it, I grabbed him and pulled him away from the scene. I ushered him away from the scuffle, and had him up against the wall. “Goddammit, ‘Pac you knew you can’t be doing this!” I told him. “I’m not gonna let you back over them. Use your head! You’ve got a court date coming up. ” My back was to the fight, but I could hear security coming up. I started easing Tupac out of the picture. My whole objective was to keep him out of it, but he wanted back in. As he attempted to jump back into the crowd, I reached into the fray and plucked him out a second time. At this point I could see Suge and his homeboys kicking Anderson while he was still down.
“Let’s go,” – I heard Suge yell, and everybody started to scatter. The only problem was, no-one knew which way was out and people started to panic. I had scooped out the exits earlier when I was looking for ‘Pac, and knew where to find the nearest door. The crowd saw us head outside and followed us out of the building. As we made it to the exit, I could hear security calling for Metro. We proceeded to go back to the Luxor by foot, and we were walkin’, everyone’s talking about the fight. Tupac didn’t waste any time chiming in. The bragging started before we even hit the bridge. ‘It was just like the fight. Boom, one, boom, two and he was down. I took him out faster than Tyson!’ Everyone was laughing and congratulating him and no-one asked why he beat on the guy. For his part, Tupac didn’t offer an explanation. It didn’t matter to him why he did it. It was just another fight – another chance for him to prove himself. For ‘Pac, bragging after a fight was like having a smoke after sex. He’d get all charged-up, and I just looked at his behavior m another part of Thug Life. At the time all I was thinking was, Thank god we got out of there. By now, we probably had at least a 100 groupies following us back to the Luxor. Men and women, young and old, every kind of hanger-on you could imagine. I was the only bodyguard.
Everyone else had their instructions to head over to 662 and no-one in security knew what just happened. I’m on Tupac like glue now. When he want upstairs to change, I went with him. While Tupac switched out of his jeans into a pair of matching green jersey, I fixed the link on his medallion he out. I realize I was dehydrated from all the commotion. I began thinking about what just happened. Oh well, I tell myself, it was just another fight, and it’s over, every other fight we’ve had in the past, except we didn’t get stopped by the police. There were no witnesses, no guns drawn. At this point, I’m not thinking about the cameras, and what they might have captured on video. I didn’t know till later in the weak, that the guy he beat up was a Compton Crip they believe tom up a Foot Locker in the Lakewood Mall after trying to snatch Trevon’s Death Row necklace. Apparently there was $10,000 bounty for them. None of this would come to light until much later. In the meantime, all I was thinking about was making it through the rest of the evening with no more bullshit.
While the rest of the world was talking about the Tyson fight – did Seldon take a dive or did he take a punch about the night’s real fight. As usual, Kidada missed all the excitement, and he had to fill her in. She loved his roughneck side, and this was as close to the action as she usually got. He didn’t invite her to the club tonight, either. We went back downstairs to the valet parking area, and it was a complete and total scene. The Death Row entourage was in effect. People were getting in cars and heading over to 662, and girls were making their way over to us. Okay, you wanna see some some hoochies, here they were. There’s nothing like fight-night hoochies. These women put an the skimpiest outfits possible, most of them half dressed, with their breasts hanging out and asses hanging out, all angling to get into 662. None of our entourage was in a hurry to get to the liked making showy entrances and he wasn’t about to arrive early. Finally, Suge signalled it was time to go to his house, and ‘Pac pulled me aside. “I want you to drive Kidada’s Lexus with the Lil’ Homies, and I’m gonna ride with Suge.” My gun was in my car, a two-seater parked on the other side of the hotel, and I knew I couldn’t say, ‘Hey, Suge, ‘Pac, why don’t you wait up a minute while I go over to my car?’ It wouldn’t happen. Once we’re rolling, we’re rolling – there’s no time to make a run. I wasn’t allowed to carry a firearm tonight anyway, I told myself, and there’s going to be 20 security guards waiting at the club by the time we get them. Besides, ‘Pac wants me to do him a favor and look after his Outlaws. Most of ’em can’t drive legally, and ‘Pac know they were gonna get drunk. Somebody had to drive. I meant worried. We’d make our way from the hotel to Suge’s and onto the club like we had many times before. As soon as I got in the Lexus, however, another red flag went up. The light was on that indicated the tank was on empty. I had no idea how much reserve Kidada’s car had, and I knew damn well we mart gonna be stopping for gas. I had to pray we’d make it to Suge’s and to the club, because we wouldn’t be able to gas up until the evening was over. To make matters worse, Suge had a lead foot – nearly as bad as Tupac’s – and I was chasing him on fumes.
The capper: I had to keep the windows down – we couldn’t risk running the AC. Suge’s house was a sprawling one-level mansion across from Mike Tyson’s and Wayne Newton’s homes. Like everything Suge owned, it was dominated by the color red – red carpeting in the master bedroom, red fixtures throughout. It looked the same as it always did, but one detail stood out: had the pool pained a deep blood red in shape of the Death Row emblem. We only stayed there for about ten or 15 minutes before the cars started lining up to see – a parade of some of the most badass gangstas around. The entourage consisted of about a dozen cars, all top-of-the-line Mercedes, BMWS, Cadillacs, and Lexuses, and nearly all in black. Suge’s homies were all Compton street thugs, afraid of nothing and nobody.
As we were taking off, you could hear the Pioneer systems bumping that bass so loud the ground was trembling. Right as we were nearing the strip, a bicycle cop motioned Suge to pull over. My windows were down, and I could hear them pumping Makaveli, ‘Pac’s latest project – ‘Pac always listened to ‘Pac when he was driving, he used the time to review what he was currently working on. It seemed the cop had given it a thumbs-down – they were playing the music louder than the city’s limits allowed. Suge was driving a brand new 750IL that he’d just bought the week before and he hadn’t even put in his custom stereo yet. The car didn’t have plates, it had come straight from the dealer. The officer asked Suge to step out the car. II was right on the tail and I could see Suge get out of the car and walk toward the back. He seemed to be relaxed as he opened the trunk and so did the cop. Suge got back in the car and that was the end of it.
I don’t know how they managed to avoid being busted for marijuana. It didn’t matter that both of them were on probation, ‘Pac had dope on him 24 hours a day. His mindset was, “I’m a multi-millionaire, I have the best attorneys in the country. I’ve got more cash in my pocket than you’ll see in a year, so fuck ’em”. They didn’t take this shit seriously. Their lifestyle, and the way they view pot is, it’s a minor offence. Until I saw Suge drive off, I was sweating it, literally. Between them messing with the police, no AC, and no gas, I had plenty to be worried about. At this point I wanted to suggest to Suge to make a right turn on Tropicana, so we could enter the club the back way, and the only reason I didn’t was he’d already blown through the light. He was moving too fast. Suge knew the shortcut too, and if we were just going to the club to check things out during the day, he would have taken it. But he took Flamingo to make his presence known. They had Makaveli blaring, an entourage of cars, and Tyson had won. To top it off, they’d won their own fight and were probably feeling extra good. As we were cruising down Flamingo, women were rolling up beside the cars and joining in the entourage. Everyone wanted into the club tonight, and that’s how many of them usually got in – by sliding in with us. Crowds of cars started surrounding us, and I started to get the same feeling I had at the casino when ‘Pac was on winning streak. All eyes were on him and at any moment, things could have sprung out of control. As we stopped at a red light, a white caddilac rolled up next to us. I can still see the car clearly, it had the distinctive brake-light configuration that all new-model Caddies have. I replay that image over and over in my head. It was just another red light, and it was just another white Cadillac. Suge’s homie K-Dove was travelling in front of them, and I am directly behind them. I looked dead at the car, and I saw the arm come out and the gun. Bam bam bam bam!
My first reaction was, Oh my fuckin’ God. I jumped out of the car, and as I was running up to Suge’s BMW, the white Cadillac sped off and made a turn to the right. As I reached the BMW, teary-eyed and in shock, I’m thinking, They’re dead. They are dead. There’s absolutely no way that anyone in the car’s moving. Before I made it to the back of the car, the BMW took off and did a U-turn to the left. K-Dove also whipped a U-turn, and I ran back to the Lexus, jumped in and began following them. I can’t even tell you how fast we were going. We jumped every median getting back to the Strip and we caught up with Suge’s car at Vegas Boulevard and Harmon. It had made it through the intersection but was grounded by two flat tyres hitting the medians. I jumped out of the car and saw that the Vegas PD were everywhere. I ran up and identified myself as Tupac’s bodyguard and an ex-cop, and they allowed me to come in. Everyone was trying to get at the car but the cops were containing the crowd. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What the fuck was Suge doing spread-eagled on the ground? His hands and legs were stretched out and two cops were holding him down. Blood was squirting out of his head.
“You got the victim on the ground!” I screamed to the cops. Suge is looking up at me, and I could see the bleeding getting worse. “Let him go!” I’m yelling. “He’s been shot at!’ They let him up and as soon as they did, Suge and I ran to the BMW to try and get ‘Pac out of the car. The door was stuck for some reason, and I could hear Suge saying again and again, “I know how to open it. I know how to open it.” I reached for ‘Pac through the window. The medallion and his jersey were soaked in blood and his body was trembling, like he was cold. Through tears, I started talking to him,”You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.” By the time Suge got the door open, the police and the ambulance had arrived, and we got him off the ground. I knelt down next to him and touched him. “You’re gonna be okay, ‘Pac.” I was trying to keep him conscious. “‘Pac, you’re okay, you’re okay.” As I’m kneeling down beside him, I could see him looking up at me. “Frank, I can’t breathe,” he whispered. “I can’t breathe.” “No man, you’re okay,” I cried. But he kept repeating it over and over again. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” With his own strength, I watched him move both of his hands and cross them over his body. With his eyes open, he took a deep breath and let out a sigh. He closed his eyes. That was the last time I saw him breath on his own.