COMPTON, Calif., Oct. 2 -- A series of gang-related shootings that left three people dead in Compton in the past month were payback for the fatal shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur, authorities said Wednesday. In a pre-dawn sweep of suspected gang hideouts, police arrested 22 suspects in connection with a dozen shootings that began when Shakur and a business associate were shot Sept. 7 in Las Vegas. Three of the 12 Compton shootings were fatal, officials said, apparently members of Crips gangs. 'We know it was retaliation, specifically for Shakur's shooting,' Compton Police Department public information officer Capt. Steven Roller said. Shakur, 25, was a major force in gangsta rap, which has been criticized as excessively violent and misogynist. He proudly proclaimed the Compton gangster life, has been arrested half a dozen times in the last three years, was shot five times two years ago in New York City, and claimed there were three contracts out on his life. Some in the music industry speculate that for all of Shakur's volatility and high profile, it may actually have been the powerful Knight who was the target of what they said was a hit by members of rival Crips gangsters. Knight, a 300-pounder who built a $100 million music empire in less than five years, rarely appears in public without something red -- the color of the rival Bloods. State, local, federal and Las Vegas law officers took part in the early morning raids on 37 locations in and around Compton.
About 300 officers from 10 law enforcement agencies conducted the sweep, which also netted 17 handguns, seven rifles, one machine pistol, three bulletproof vests, more than a kilo of cocaine and marijuana and over $17,000 in cash, officials said. Compton and Las Vegas police denied initial reports that one of those arrested in the sweep was also a suspect in Shakur's killing, said Roller. He said the 22 arrests were in connection with Compton shootings only. Shakur was shot in the chest at least three times after he and Marion 'Suge' Knight, the chairman of Death Row Records, drove away from the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon heavyweight boxing title fight in Las Vegas early last month. The pair were in a convoy apparently headed for a nightclub. Knight, 31, who produces the work of Shakur and other rappers including Hammer and Snoop Doggy Dogg, suffered a graze wound to the head and was released from the hospital the day after the shootings. Shakur, also an actor who appeared in the movie, 'Poetic Justice' with singer Janet Jackson, clung to life for nearly a week before dying. Las Vegas police say they are getting virtually no cooperation from members of the Shakur-Knight entourage.