Unfortunately, the family claims, it seems to be doing all the legwork.
"No family should have to do the job of the LAPD," said Perry R. Sanders Jr., the attorney representing the slain rapper's estate. Sanders spoke at a Los Angeles press conference Monday on the eve of the family's federal wrongful death trial against the Los Angeles Police Department.
Flanked by Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace, and ex-wife, Capitol recording artist Faith Evans, Sanders revealed a never-before-seen search warrant and affidavit in an effort to counter recent Los Angeles Times stories saying the police investigation into the rapper's shooting death was troubled and suggesting the family's lawsuit was on shaky ground.
The oversized "Hypnotize" rapper, variously known as the Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls (his real name was Christopher Wallace), was gunned down in L.A.'s mid-Wilshire district in 1997 at the age of 24. No arrests have ever been made in the case.
But Sanders called the amount of evidence in the case "massive"; he declared the LAPD's handling of the entire investigation into his death a "colossal mess."
Although Voletta Wallace declined to comment during the press conference, she is very much the driving force behind a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the LAPD three years ago, which begins in earnest Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The elder Wallace seeks to use the trial to answer the question of why one of the police department's own officers came under suspicion. Per her suit, a rogue former officer named David Mack, acting on orders from rival rap kingpin Marion "Suge" Knight, hired an old college roommate, Amir Muhammad, to gun down Biggie as payback for the Las Vegas drive-by slaying of Tupac Shakur seven months earlier.
Despite a similar theory floated by the Los Angeles Times three years ago, no evidence has ever been found to link Biggie with Tupac's death.
One key witness, a police informant identified only as "Psycho Mike" who initially fingered Muhammad as the hit man, admitted in a recent deposition that he was "lifelong paranoid schizophrenic" and based his account on "hearsay." The FBI, which had been probing a similar line of reasoning in its probe of the murder, threw in the towel on its 18-month investigation in January, concluding the bureau didn't have enough evidence to pursue the case. Last week, Mack and Muhammad were dropped as defendants in the civil case.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Times reported that another witness had an arrest warrant issued for him to testify in the case. Kevin Hackie, a former FBI informant, told the newspaper he will take the stand, but with a caveat. "My memory is bad," he said in the Times. "I'm going to try answer questions to the best of my knowledge."
Sanders noted several times in his press conference that many witnesses have been afraid and/or reluctant to testify in the case.
He also handed out photocopies of a newly unsealed 1999 police warrant and affidavit. The document shows the LAPD focused initially on a "lone male suspect" driving a "dark-colored Chevy SS Impala" apparently registered to Suge Knight. The warrant focuses on the enmity between Biggie's East Coast-based label, Bad Boy, and Knight's West Coast outfit, Death Row, and possible triggermen suspects associated with Knight.
While the affidavit does not explicitly find Knight or any of his associates responsible for the shooting, it does state, "It is your affiant's opinion that this homicide was conspired and carried out in direct response to the murder of Tupac Shakur."
Voletta Wallace has so far refused to settle with the city of Los Angeles--opting instead to have the department officials publicly answer her questions in court. Sanders claims the department was scandal-ridden during the time of the Wallace shooting and referred to the lawsuit as a "civil rights matter."
"This is about a city which has had in place policies that we think contribute to this sort of activity," he said.