Russell Wayne Poole (November 29, 1956 – August 19, 2015) was a Los Angeles Police Department detective most noted for investigating the murder of the rapper known as The Notorious B.I.G.. Poole also investigated the killing of LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines by LAPD Officer Frank Lyga on March 18, 1997. After retiring in 1999, he formed a private detective agency.
The son of a 27-year L.A. County Sheriff, Poole would "follow in his father's footsteps" and join the LAPD in 1981. He rose quickly, becoming a detective trainee only three years after being sworn in. Before being chosen to work in the Robbery-Homicide division in 1996, he spent over 9 years as a homicide investigator at the South Bureau and Wilshire Division. He served as the primary investigator (taking a case all the way through trial) on at least 135 homicide cases, and assisted on over 500 more. Noteworthy cases investigated personally by Poole before the Rampart scandal included the murder of actor, activist and comedian Bill Cosby's son Ennis. He also was one of the officers involved in the investigation into the North Hollywood shootout, just days before the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. Throughout his career up to his involvement in the Rampart scandal, Poole was a highly respected and decorated LAPD detective.
LAPD Rampart investigation
Poole's involvement in the Rampart scandal began less than six months before the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. and a year before Rafael Perez was arrested. His involvement started when Poole and his Robbery/Homicide unit partner Fred Miller were assigned to investigate the March 1997 Studio City shooting death of LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines. Gaines was killed in a road rage dispute after he brandished a gun at another motorist, who was undercover officer Lyga.
Death of Notorious B.I.G.
On March 9, 1997, at around 12:30 a.m., Biggie Smalls, Bad Boy Records CEO Sean Combs, and their entourage left the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards after-party, held at the Petersen Automotive Museum, in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel after an announcement was made that the party would finish earlier than planned. Biggie traveled in the front passenger seat of the second Suburban alongside his associates, Damion "D-Rock" Butler, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease and driver, Gregory "G-Money" Young. Combs traveled in the first vehicle with three bodyguards. The two trucks were trailed by a Chevrolet Blazer carrying Bad Boy's director of security.
By 12:45 a.m., the streets were crowded with cars full of people leaving the event. Biggie's truck stopped at a red light 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. While waiting for the light to change, a white Toyota Land Cruiser made a U-turn and cut in-between Biggie's vehicle and the Chevrolet Blazer behind. Simultaneously, a dark Chevrolet Impala pulled up alongside Biggie's SUV. The driver of the Impala (an African-American male neatly dressed in a blue suit and bow tie) rolled down his window, drew a 9mm blue-steel pistol and fired several rounds into the GMC Suburban; four bullets hit Biggie in the chest. Biggie was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by Combs and the rest of Biggie's entourage, but was pronounced dead by doctors at 1:15 a.m.
Investigation of Notorious B.I.G.'s death
After months of investigating, Poole accused LAPD Officer David Mack, along with Mack's friend, Amir Muhammad, of being complicit in the murder. Poole claimed he had enough evidence to prove that Mack had ties to the CEO of Death Row Records, Marion "Suge" Knight to suspect Mack and possibly other officers in the murder. He had sources that he grew up in the same neighborhood as Knight (Compton), was in the same gang as Knight (the Bloods), was a frequent visitor at Knight's private parties, and wore the same blood red clothes as Knight and the Bloods gang. Much of Poole's investigation was used as the basis for Randall Sullivan's book, LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal. The book is now made into a film named City of Lies, starring Johnny Depp as Det. Poole. The film was released on December 8, 2018 at the Noir film festival.
Chief Parks' involvement and Poole's resignation
Poole sent his findings to the then-chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bernard C. Parks, who ordered Poole to cease all investigations of Officer David Mack. Poole, in protest of Parks' and the LAPD's handling of the case, retired from the department in late 1999 after a long and rewarding career. Distraught from being forced into early retirement and the end of the investigation, Poole later stated that "I almost took my life, but it was my kids that actually saved me." Furthermore, he filed a lawsuit against the LAPD for violating his First Amendment rights by preventing him from going to the public with his information. Poole, as a private investigator, continued independently investigating the murder on his own. He was included in a 2001 interview with VH1 in the documentary film Biggie & Tupac released in 2001 by Nick Broomfield.
Tupac:187, written by Richard RJ Bond, Michael Douglas Carlin, with a contribution by Russell Poole, is an alternate theory in the murder of Tupac Shakur.
While working on a future tell-all book, Chaos Merchants, Poole died of an aneurism on August 19, 2015, while discussing the Tupac and Biggie cases at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.