The rapper Pop Smoke had been out that night, returning late to the four-bedroom Spanish-style house where he was staying in the Hollywood Hills. Around 4 a.m., soon after he came home, the police said, four men in hoodies broke in and shot him twice. A bullet to the torso left the promising 20-year-old musician dead.
A week after his death, the Los Angeles Police Department is trying to untangle whether Pop Smoke, whose real name was Bashar Jackson, was the victim of a random robbery or if he was targeted, perhaps because of what he was posting on social media. There have been no arrests.
In the weeks before his death, Pop Smoke had posted pictures on Instagram showing him next to or holding large stacks of cash. One such picture was posted the day before he died. He also posted about a gift bag he had received, in which the address of the Hollywood Hills home was clearly visible.
“It’s an angle we’re looking at,” Capt. Jonathan L. Tippet said of Pop Smoke’s Instagram posts. “It also extends the pool of people that would have known where he was at and could have targeted him for a variety of reasons.”
While there were other people in the house, Captain Tippet said that Pop Smoke was alone in one part of the home when the intruders found him. He was the only person who was shot at.
Some items were taken, Captain Tippet said, but there were also standard signs of a robbery that were absent, particularly ransacking. The intruders would have had to travel through some portion of the house before they found him, but they did not pull the place apart looking for valuables along the way.
“There were a couple of items that were taken, but some of the things you would think would be taken weren’t even really looked for,” Captain Tippet said. “So that’s why we’re not really saying that it was a robbery or that he was the intended target.”
Pop Smoke was from Brooklyn, and Captain Tippet said that the L.A.P.D. had been informed by their East Coast counterparts that he had gang associations. (He also was facing federal charges of transporting a stolen Rolls-Royce across state lines, and for a time wore an ankle monitor because of a weapons charge.) But Captain Tippet said there was no indication at this point that a rival gang from the East Coast had come to Los Angeles to target him.
Captain Tippet said the police department was examining leads, and because the neighborhood of expensive homes was blanketed in cameras, they were also poring over large batches of video.
With a deep, gravelly voice and rugged style, Pop Smoke released his first album, “Meet the Woo,” last July, featuring the hits “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior.” He quickly went on to collaborate with big names like Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott. His second album was released this month, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. Before he was killed, he had just returned from a publicity trip to London and was preparing for a concert tour in March.