How the hunt for who killed rapper Cutty Banks in California led to an arrest in Oklahoma

Nolan Clay
Oklahoman
Cutty Banks

The gunman in the hoodie came up on the rapper in the parking lot outside a bank in San Mateo, California, the morning of Dec. 19 and began firing.

Cutty Banks ran, but didn't get far. Shot several times, the rapper died on the ground near stairs leading to the entrance of the Wells Fargo Bank.

The shooter then fled in a white Mercedes-Benz, witnesses told police.

That description of the getaway car was key to an investigation that led to the arrest of a shooting suspect in Oklahoma.

Isaiah Tone Reupena, 34, was arrested April 1 in Blanchard after being accused in a criminal complaint of murdering the rapper in an act of revenge.

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The victim was identified by police as Melota Lasi Jr., a San Jose rap artist who performed under the name Cutty Banks. He was 30.

Cutty Banks was best known for his single "Slide" and the collaborative single "Set Trippin."  The official version of "Set Trippin" has been viewed more than 2.6 million times on YouTube.

The defendant is a rap artist, too, who had performed under the name Zeek UC. He is still being held in Oklahoma and is fighting extradition.

Isaiah Reupena

His defense attorney, Irven Box, said, "There is considerable doubt that he committed the crime."

Prosecutors disclosed in the criminal complaint that he had told others that Cutty Banks was responsible for the fatal shooting of his younger brother.

The brother, musician Lewis "Looce" Reupena, was fatally shot on a freeway outside Los Angeles on Aug. 29. The California Highway Patrol had been investigating the death as a random act of road rage.

The mother of Cutty Banks has said her son was not involved the freeway shooting.

"Let God's will be done. SHAME ON YOU!!!!" Veronica Raca Cuebas wrote in a comment after San Mateo police announced Isaiah Reupena's arrest on Facebook. "Not only did this youngster kill my son which was the wrong person that killed their brother cus my son ain't from LA but now that family has lost 2 sons brothers nephews grandsons."

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Also accused in the criminal complaint of murdering Cutty Banks is Amanda Sitping Young, the longtime girlfriend of Lewis Reupena.

Prosecutors allege Young, 29, and Isaiah Reupena were lying in wait for Cutty Banks after monitoring his social media posts.

They also are accused in the criminal complaint of conspiring with others to commit murder. They thought Lewis Reupena had been targeted because of a confrontation outside a marijuana dispensary in Compton, California, prosecutors allege.

In September, she wrote in a text message, "It is all being handled," investigators reported.

San Mateo police have not disclosed whether Young also has been arrested. She was questioned in Blanchard in January.

Details of the investigation are spelled out in a lengthy application for a search of a home in Oklahoma City on April 1.

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Investigators revealed in the application that they were able to get a license plate for the getaway car from a traffic camera.

Using a GPS system built into Mercedes-Benz vehicles, they then were able to locate the car in a parking garage in Los Angeles. From security cameras, police detectives determined the driver walked to a nearby car rental company and called a cab.

Detectives learned the phone number of the caller from the cab company and then got a judge's permission to ping the phone.

Many of the pings were from a home in Westminster, California, where "several subjects with the last name Reupena" had lived, according to the application. The last ping from the "burner" phone came on Dec. 28 from a Days Inn in Gallup, New Mexico.

Investigators determined from surveillance video at the Days Inn that Isaiah Reupena and his wife had stayed there, according to the application. They then got a judge's permission to ping the wife's phone and determined the family had moved to Blanchard.

The evidence against Isaiah Reupena includes DNA found in the getaway car, investigators revealed in the search warrant application.

He also was charged in Oklahoma with a felony marijuana offense after a search of his home in Blanchard for homicide evidence in January.