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Wallace traveled to Los Angeles, California in February 1997, to promote his upcoming second studio album and film a music video for its lead single, "Hypnotize". On March 5, 1997, he gave a radio interview with The Dog House on KYLD in San Francisco. In the interview he stated that he had hired security since he feared for his safety, not just because of the ongoing East Coast–West Coast feud, but because of his role as a high profile celebrity in general. Life After Death was scheduled for release on March 25, 1997. On March 8, 1997, he presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles and was booed by some of the audience. After the ceremony, Wallace attended an after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Other guests included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Sean Combs, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.
On March 9, 1997, at around 12:30 a.m., Wallace left with his entourage in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel after the Fire Department closed the party early because of overcrowding. Wallace traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates, Damion "D-Roc" Butler, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease and driver, Gregory "G-Money" Young. Combs traveled in the other 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 people leaving the event. Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. A black Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's SUV. The driver of the Impala, an African American male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, rolled down his window, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the GMC Suburban; four bullets hit Wallace. Wallace's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.
His autopsy was released to the public over a decade after his death in December 2012. According to the report, three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit in his left forearm and traveled down to his wrist; the second hit him in the back, missing all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder; and the third hit his outer left thigh and left through his inner thigh. The report said that the third bullet "strike[d] the left side of the scrotum, causing a very shallow, 3/8 inch linear laceration." The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, before stopping in his left shoulder area. That bullet struck his colon, liver, heart and upper lobe of his left lung.
Retired LAPD detective Greg Kading, who worked on the Biggie Smalls murder case for three years, alleges that the rapper was shot by Wardell Fouse (a.k.a Darnell Bolton and "Poochie"), an associate of Suge Knight, who was later killed in July 2003 after being shot in the back while riding his motorcycle. Kading believes Knight hired Poochie via his girlfriend "Theresa Swann" to kill Biggie to avenge the death of Tupac, whom Kading alleges was killed under the orders of Sean Combs.
In December 2012, the LAPD released the autopsy results conducted on Wallace's body, to generate new leads. The release was criticized by the long-time lawyer of his estate, Perry Sanders Jr., who objected to an autopsy. The case remains officially unsolved.