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updated 8/3/2006 7:45:46 PM ET 2006-08-03T23:45:46

Six veteran homicide detectives are leading a new police task force investigating the unsolved 1997 killing of rap star Notorious B.I.G.

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The new probe comes in the face of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the rapper's mother, Voletta Wallace, and other relatives, who claim rogue police officers were involved in the killing, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The lawsuit filed by the Wallace family ended in a mistrial last year when it was discovered that a police detective intentionally hid statements by a jailhouse informant linking the killing to two former officers.

A judge ordered the city to pay $1.1 million in legal fees and other expenses to the rapper's family. A new trial was set for early next year.

There was no new evidence that prompted the formation of the task force. But evidence discovered by the task force could help the city in its argument against the family's claims.

B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, was 24 when he was gunned down March 9, 1997, while leaving a party at a Los Angeles museum. The New York rapper, also known as Biggie Smalls, was one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the 1990s.

The investigative team is exploring the theory that Wallace was killed by a member of the Southside Crips gang as part of a hip-hop feud that that involved the slaying of rapper Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas six months earlier.

The investigators also are pursuing allegations that Wallace was killed by a Blood gang member hired by Marion "Suge" Knight, the owner of Shakur's record label. Knight has denied any involvement in the killing.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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