LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marion “Suge” Knight, the former music mogul who created one of hip-hop’s leading labels and became the impresario of gangster rap, was arrested Friday on suspicion of hitting and killing a man with his truck and fleeing the scene of the crash near Los Angeles.
Knight’s attorney said the founder of Death Row Records accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man Thursday as he tried to escape attackers. Witnesses told police an argument between the men escalated into Knight ramming the pair, then changing direction and ramming them a second time.
He was booked on suspicion of murder and held on $2 million bail.
The 49-year-old Knight, who has a long history of violence, started the label that helped solidify West Coast rap with Dr. Dre, who had been a member of the legendary group N.W.A. 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 immortalize Compton, the LA-area city where Thursday’s crash occurred, in hip-hop folklore as a gritty and violent urban environment, although crime there has dipped significantly there since its 1990s peak.
He turned himself in to authorities at 1 a.m. PST and was arrested two hours later after being interviewed by detectives.
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 later escalated at a fast-food restaurant about two miles from the film set, and the driver of a red pickup truck struck the men around 3 p.m. and took off, according to authorities.
“Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again,” sheriff’s Lt. 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.
“To see the argument happen, it’s one thing,” said 17-year-old Robert Smith, who was eating in the restaurant. “Seeing the car incident, that was shocking.”
The empty truck was found late Thursday in a West Los Angeles parking lot. Knight was seen driving a red pickup truck 20 minutes before the deadly incident, the lieutenant said.
Knight had shown up at a location where cast and crew were taking a break from filming a promotional video for the movie “Straight Outta Compton,” according to a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to speak publicly about it and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were at the location, but they did not see Knight, the person said. Production for the movie, a biopic about the rise of N.W.A., was shut down for the day because of security concerns and had not resumed on Friday the person said.
Knight’s attorney, James Blatt, said Knight was called to Tam’s Burgers in Compton by a friend about an hour after the dispute at the film shoot. As he slowed his pickup truck, he was attacked by four people who beat him through the window and threatened to kill him, Blatt said.
The attorney said Knight fled in fear by accelerating and had no idea he hit two men. The 55-year-old fatality was identified as Knight friend Terry Carter.
Knight founded Death Row Records in the 1990s but later declared bankruptcy, and the company was auctioned off.
He was at the center of one of the most notorious rap conflicts of that decade, pitting rappers Tupac Shakur against Biggie Smalls in an East Coast versus West Coast rivalry.
Knight was sent to prison for nearly five years for badly beating a rival with Shakur at a Las Vegas, Nevada, hotel, just hours before Shakur was fatally shot while riding in Knight’s car just east of the Strip.
Smalls, whose real name was Chris Wallace, was shot to death in a similar attack six months later.
The history of Knight’s run-ins with the law goes back more than 20 years and includes assault and weapons offenses.
In November, Knight 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 of probation.
He also served timed for probation violations.
Last August, Knight was shot six times at a West Hollywood nightclub. No arrests have been made.