By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
As for Perez and David Mack, while Mack now identifies himself as a Blood and Perez may as well be, there’s no evidence that either worked for Death Row Records. LAPD investigators took a statement from a former Death Row security guard placing both officers at several Death Row functions, but that source stated specifically that, in each case, neither Perez nor Mack was working as a police officer or as an employee of Death Row. They were there, he said, ”to socialize.“
Where, then, is the cadre of gangsta cops? Sullivan a may have been referring to Wrightway Security, the in-house security firm at Death Row founded by Reggie Wright, a former Compton police officer. Wright made it a point to staff his shifts with off-duty or former law-enforcement officers -- the better to deal with cops in case trouble should arise -- but most hailed from Compton, Inglewood and Hawthorne, and from school-police agencies in those cities.
That presented a problem for those departments -- the chiefs of police at Compton and Inglewood both found occasion to reprimand officers for working for Death Row -- but it doesn‘t make the connection to Rampart.
Sullivan resolved that problem with a bald, unattributed statement of fact: ”Since 1998, half-a-dozen black LAPD officers have been suspended for accepting employment with Death Row without obtaining the required permits,“ he wrote. Not true. In fact, a single LAPD officer was disciplined for his work for Death Row -- and he had an authorized departmental work permit.
Officer Richard McCauley moonlighted for Death Row beginning in 1995, and was in Las Vegas when Death Row star Tupac Shakur was shot and killed; Suge Knight was injured in the same fusillade. McCauley, who lives in Covina and is considering writing a book on his experiences, says he was the only LAPD officer among the cops at Wrightway.
He told investigators the same thing. ”They kept asking me if there were any others,“ McCauley said in an interview. ”I kept telling them no.“ Asked about the suspensions, McCauley opened a copy of Rolling Stone and looked at the reference to six officers and said, ”That guy’s just padding his numbers.“ A call to Sullivan to ask the source of his information was not returned.
In some respects, McCauley would fit Randall Sullivan‘s profile of a black gangsta cop with ties to Death Row. While he never joined a gang per se, he acknowledges that ”In my neighborhood, most kids had some gang affiliation. I was into sports, so I wasn’t on the street, but I was always down for my hood.“ But McCauley‘s no hoodlum -- his father is an LAPD detective -- and while he knew David Mack on the force, it was from the department football team. ”Mack was a cool dude,“ McCauley recalled. ”All I knew was he was involved in a lot of shootings.“
McCauley added that he never saw Mack or Perez around Death Row. After Mack’s arrest for the bank robbery, McCauley inquired and heard that Mack and Perez had indeed attended several Death Row functions prior to his employment there: ”They were hanging out. That‘s how it was explained to me, they were partying.“ As for Gaines, McCauley said he was known at Death Row, but as persona non-grata. Sharitha Knight told Rolling Stone the same thing, describing a single encounter in which she relied on the cop to counter a ”threat“ from her former husband.
McCauley scoffed at the idea of an LAPD clique inside Death Row. Referring to the federal task-force investigation, he said, ”Everybody’s been watching Suge for years. If Mack, Perez and Gaines was that close, don‘t you think the FBI would know?“
Embellished as it was, Sullivan’s reference to a ”cadre“ of LAPD officers was not enough to support his headline -- ”The Murder of Notorious B.I.G.: Suge Knight, Gangster Cops, and allegations of police cover-up.“
To close the circle, Sullivan had to troll deeper in the waters of rumor and hearsay that have inundated the Rampart story from the beginning. That expedition took him to Mark Hylland, and the claim that Suge Knight personally put out the contract on Biggie Smalls.
Hylland is an ex-felon currently on trial for more than 20 counts of grand theft and practicing law without a license. Hylland himself will tell you he‘s an inveterate liar and compulsive hustler -- he even claims to have Tourette’s syndrome.
That doesn‘t mean Hylland doesn’t know anything about Rampart. As Sullivan reported, Hylland‘s story that he helped Perez, Mack and several other officers launder funds has drawn the interest of federal investigators, who spent months tracking down his leads. Nor should Hylland’s shady record disqualify him as a source on crooked police officers -- their most likely associates, especially in criminal enterprises, would be fellow crooks.
But that does mean that Hylland‘s stories would have to be checked out. Especially the one he tells about being present ”with Mack and Perez when they met with Suge Knight in the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant in Bellflower during early 1997.“ There, Sullivan reports, Knight handed off a cash bounty that Hylland would take to Phoenix to pay for the gun used to kill Biggie Smalls.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city