Authorities are investigating whether a man found dead in a barrel at a Malibu beach is connected to the 2020 murder of rapper Pop Smoke, TMZ reports.
The victim, identified as Javonnta Murphy, 32, was discovered on July 31 inside a 55-gallon barrel floating in the water near the Pacific Coast Highway bridge.
Murphy’s brother, Jaquan Murphy, 24, was one of five people arrested for Pop Smoke’s murder after the rapper was shot and killed during a home-invasion robbery in the Hollywood Hills.
Although Jaquan, along with four other suspects, were arrested for attempted murder at the time, Jaquan was later cleared of the charges.
Authorities are now looking into whether Javonnta’s murder may have been in retaliation for the rapper’s murder.
Police believe in Feb. 2020, 20-year-old Pop Smoke, whose legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, was targeted by a group of robbers after the rapper’s social media posts revealed the location of the Airbnb he was renting.
Jackson had posted photos of him posing by an infinity pool in the home’s backyard, along with a picture of the L.A. skyline from what was likely the house’s backyard.
In another post, photos of a gift bag tagged with the Hollywood Hills address and one showing Jackson posing by a Ranger Rover where the home’s address was partly visible in the background were also posted online, the L.A. Times reported.
Five suspects arrived at the home, including one who was masked and armed with a handgun. The suspects are believed to be members of a South Los Angeles gang, LAPD said.
Three of the suspects were identified as Jaquan Murphy, 21, Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre D. Rodgers, 18, all from Los Angeles. The two other suspects were only identified as a 15-year-old male and a 17-year-old male due to their juvenile status.
Investigators said the suspects broke into the home around 4 a.m. They burst into Jackson’s bedroom and confronted him in a shower, where the 15-year-old boy pistol-whipped the rapper and shot him three times in the back, according to the L.A. Times.
The suspects fled the home with Jackson’s watch, a diamond-studded Rolex that they sold for $2,000. The rapper was pronounced dead at the hospital.
In July 2020, authorities confirmed Jaquan Murphy was not charged in the murder, whereas the other four suspects were. Officials had not revealed what they suspected Jaquan’s role was at the time.
LAPD said some of the suspects are also linked to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Kamryn Stone outside the Rose Bowl in September 2019, which is believed to be gang-related. That case remains under investigation by Pasadena police.
Neither Jackson nor the entourage staying with him in the Hollywood Hills were believed to be associated with the gang, according to the Associated Press.
Jaquan’s older brother, Javonnta Murphy, was found naked and sealed inside a large barrel that washed up ashore on July 31. He was found with a gunshot wound in the head, according to a coroner’s report. His cause of death was also listed as a homicide.
“It didn’t look decomposed or like it had been there for a long time,” said LASD Lt. Hugo Raynaga of the body’s discovery.
It’s unclear how long the body had been inside the barrel and where it originated from. Authorities also added the high tide may have carried the barrel into the lagoon from the ocean.
Javonnta was an aspiring rapper and musician who dreamed of becoming a successful artist.
He was raised in South Los Angeles with four brothers. A family friend, Patrick Nelson, 46, said Javonnta had just moved into his first apartment in Sylmar when he was killed.
Nelson said he wasn’t aware that Javonnta frequented the Malibu area and told the Times he was a good kid who wasn’t involved in gang activity. He also couldn’t think of any potential enemies who might have targeted Javonnta.
Pop Smoke arrived on the rap scene in 2018 and broke out with “Welcome to the Party” a gangsta anthem with boasts about shootings, killings and drugs that became a huge sensation, and prompted Nicki Minaj to drop a verse on a remix.
His major label debut album, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon,” was executive produced by 50 Cent. It was released posthumously to mostly positive reviews and featured appearances from popular artists including Future, DaBaby and Quavo.
No further details were released on the case as the investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department at 323-267-4800.