‘Suge’ has a history of violent crime

Hollywood – Marion “Suge” Knight, who created one of hip-hop’s leading labels and became the impresario of gangster rap, was arrested early on Friday on suspicion of hitting and killing a man with his vehicle near Los Angeles and then fleeing.

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Death Row Records founder Marion Suge Knight, right, enters the Los Angeles County Sheriffs department building in connection with a hit-and-run incident that left one man dead and another injured. AP Photo/OnSceneVideo via AP Television

 

Knight’s attorney said the founder of Death Row Records accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man on Thursday as he tried to escape attackers.

Witnesses and authorities say an argument between the men escalated into Knight ramming the pair. Authorities said he could face a murder charge.

The 49-year-old Knight, who has a long history of violent crimes, started the label that helped put West Coast rap on the map with the legendary group N.W.A., whose members included Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy E. The label also launched the career of Snoop Dogg and had Tupac Shakur in the last months of his life.

Many of the records Knight released helped immortalise Compton, the city where the crash occurred, in hip-hop folklore as a gritty and violent urban environment, although crime there has dipped significantly there since its 1990s peak.

Knight was arrested about 3am after turning himself in to authorities and was being held on $2 million (R23.4m) bail.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said Knight got into an argument with two men at a film shoot and was asked to leave.

The argument escalated at a fast-food restaurant about 3km from the film set, and the driver of a red truck struck the men around 3pm and then drove way, according to authorities.

“Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again,” Lieutenant John Corina said. “The people we talked to say it looked like it was an intentional act.”

A 55-year-old man died at a hospital, and a 51-year-old man was injured, but authorities did not immediately know his condition.

Witnesses also spoke of an argument between the three.

Knight’s attorney, James Blatt, said the crash was an accident.

“He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men, and in an effort to escape, he unfortunately hit two (other) individuals,” the lawyer said. “He was in his car trying to escape.”

The empty truck was found late on Thursday in a West Los Angeles parking lot, Corina said.

Knight was seen driving a red truck 20 minutes earlier in a different part of town where a music video was being filmed, the lieutenant said.

Blatt said Knight’s legal team was “confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated”.

Knight, who had a brief career as a player in the National Football League, founded Death Row Records in the 1990s but later declared bankruptcy, and the company was auctioned off.

His lengthy history of run-ins with the law goes back to the early 1990s and includes assaults and weapons offences.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to a robbery charge filed over an incident in which a celebrity photographer accused him of stealing her camera in Beverly Hills. Because of prior convictions, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

He has felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 to assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

He also served timed for probation violations.

In August, Knight was shot six times at a Los Angeles nightclub.

Sapa-AP

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