WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight was arrested early Friday on a murder charge in a fatal hit-and-run.
Knight was arrested at about 3 a.m. and was being held on $2 million bail, said Sgt. Diane Hecht of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s information office. She said he is being held at the West Hollywood sheriff’s station.
Knight had turned himself into authorities early Friday. His attorney said the rap mogul accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man as he fled attackers.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the incident was being investigated as a homicide and that Knight was a person of interest.
Earlier Friday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in a brief statement, said Knight was at the West Hollywood station with his attorney and was being interviewed by homicide detectives.
Video provided by ONSCENE.TV showed Knight getting out of a private car at the sheriff’s station and then leisurely walking into the building with companions and others who appeared to be law officers.
Officials say that a red pickup truck struck the men in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. A 55-year-old man died at a hospital and a 51-year-old man was injured but Corina did not immediately know his condition.
“We are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated,” attorney James Blatt said earlier by telephone.
Late Thursday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina told reporters that the crash occurred around 3 p.m. PST in the parking lot of the restaurant in the Los Angeles-area city of Compton and then the driver took off.
“Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again,” Corina said.
“The people we talked to say it looked like it was an intentional act,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that two people were in the parking lot when the red pick-up arrived and its driver became involved in an argument with them
“The argument escalated and the driver backed up striking one of the victims. The driver then drove forward driving over both victims,” the sheriff’s statement said. “Various witnesses described the driver as being Marion Suge Knight.”
The empty truck was found late Thursday night in a West Los Angeles parking lot, Corina said.
He said the rap mogul was seen driving a red pickup truck 20 minutes earlier in a different part of town where a video was being shot.
Witnesses also spoke of an argument.
“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.”
Blatt said it 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.”
Compton has been immortalized in hip-hop folklore, including on many of the records Knight released, as a gritty and violent urban environment, though crime has dipped significantly there since its 1990s peak.
Knight founded Death Row Records, one of rap’s leading labels, in the 1990s, releasing labels by artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.
He later declared bankruptcy and the company was auctioned off.
Knight has a long history of run-ins with the law ranging from assaults to driving violations.
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 prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years’ probation for assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.
He also serve timed for probation violations.
Last August, Knight was shot six times at a Los Angeles nightclub. No arrests have been made.
AP writer Robert Jablon contributed to this report from Los Angeles.