Just over 27 years to the day after hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting, a suspect was arrested and charged with murder in Las Vegas on Friday, a long-sought development in one of the most high-profile open investigations in recent memory.
Sheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told a press conference that Duane “Keefe D” Davis was arrested Friday morning. An indictment was handed down by a Nevada grand jury later that day, Clark County District Attorney Steven B. Wolfson said.
“It has taken countless hours — really decades — of work by the men and women of our homicide section to get to where we are today,” McMahill said.
“This investigation began on the night of Sept. 7, 1996. It is far from over.”
Davis, 60, is the only living person suspected to have been involved in the shooting. He has long denied being the one who pulled the trigger but has admitted publicly — including in his 2019 tell-all memoir, Compton Street Legend — to being in the vehicle that pulled up next to Shakur’s that fateful night.
Wolfson told reporters Davis was being charged with open murder with use of a deadly weapon with a gang enhancement for his alleged involvement in the killing.
“We have an aiding and abetting statute which provides that if you help somebody commit a crime, you can be equally as guilty,” he said.
Las Vegas police Lt. Jason Johansson went further, describing Davis as the “shot caller for this group of individuals” who “orchestrated the plan that was carried out to commit this crime.”
The arrest comes two months after Las Vegas police raided Davis’ wife’s home July 17 in neighboring Henderson. Documents said police were looking for items “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur.”
Police reported collecting multiple computers, a cellphone and hard drive, a Vibe magazine that featured Shakur, several .40-caliber bullets, two “tubs containing photographs” and a copy of Davis memoir.
In the book, Davis said he broke his silence over Tupac’s killing in 2010 during a closed-door meeting with federal and local authorities. At the time, he was 46 and facing life in prison on drug charges when he agreed to speak with the authorities.
“They promised they would shred the indictment and stop the grand jury if I helped them out,” he wrote.
He has described himself as one of the last living witnesses to the shooting.
Johansson, who laid out the timeline of the investigation, said many of the facts outlined in the indictment had been known by detectives for decades. But police were unable to obtain the “necessary evidence” needed to move forward with an arrest and prosecution until recently.
He said additional information was first obtained in 2018 that led investigators back to Davis.
Shakur was 25 when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting near the Las Vegas Strip on the night of Sept. 7, 1996. The rapper was in a BMW driven by Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight in a convoy of about 10 cars. They were waiting at a red light when a white Cadillac pulled up next to them and gunfire erupted.
Shakur was shot multiple times and died a week later.
In 2018, after a cancer diagnosis, Davis admitted publicly in an interview for a BET show to being inside the Cadillac during the attack. He implicated his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, saying he was one of two people in the back seat where the shots were fired.
The shooting happened shortly after a casino brawl that same evening evening involving Anderson, Shakur and others. Both Davis and Anderson were members of the South Side Compton Crips, a gang whose members had allegedly attacked an associated of Shakur earlier in 1996.
Anderson denied any involvement in the Shakur shooting. He died two years later in a shooting in Compton, Calif.
Shakur’s death came as his fourth solo album, All Eyez on Me, remained on the charts, with some 5 million copies sold. Nominated six times for a Grammy Award, Shakur is largely considered one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.
Shakur was feuding at the time with rap rival Biggie Smalls, also known as the Notorious B.I.G., who was fatally shot in March 1997. At the time, both rappers were in the middle of an East Coast-West Coast rivalry that primarily defined the hip-hop scene during the mid-1990s.
Wolfson said Shakur’s family was “welcoming” the news of Davis’ indictment and was “pleased” justice was being served after so long. He added the family was unlikely to attend Davis’ arraignment.
In a statement Friday, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the rapper’s sister, described the arrest as a victory.
“This is no doubt a pivotal moment. The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community,” she said. “It’s important to me that the world, the country, the justice system, and our people acknowledge the gravity of the passing of this man, my brother, my mother’s son, my father’s son.”
McMahill took time to praise the investigative team, including detectives who had since retired from active duty but attended Friday’s announcement.
“I know there’s been many people who did not believe that the murder of Tupac Shakur was important to this police department,” he said. “I’m here to tell you that was simply not the case.”
Retired detective says arrest overdue
Greg Kading, a retired Los Angeles police detective who spent years investigating the Shakur killing and wrote a book about it, said he would not be surprised by Davis’s indictment and arrest.
“It’s so long overdue,” Kading told The Associated Press during a recent interview. “People have been yearning for him to be arrested for a long time. It’s never been unsolved in our minds. It’s been unprosecuted.”
Kading said he interviewed Davis in 2008 and 2009, during Los Angeles police investigations of the killings of Shakur in Las Vegas and the slaying of Biggie Smalls.
Kading said also that he talked with a Las Vegas police detective about the case, including after the SWAT raid in July at the home in Henderson.
The former Los Angeles police detective said he believed the investigation gained new momentum in recent years following Davis’s public descriptions of his role in the killing, including his 2019 tell-all memoir.
“It’s those events that have given Las Vegas the ammunition and the leverage to move forward,” Kading said. “Prior to Keefe D’s public declarations, the cases were unprosecutable as they stood.”
“He put himself squarely in the middle of the conspiracy,” Kading said of Davis and the Shakur slaying. “He had acquired the gun, he had given the gun to the shooter and he had been present in the vehicle when they hunted down and located both Tupac and Suge (Knight).”
Kading noted that Davis is the last living person among the four people who were in the vehicle from which shots were fired at Shakur and rapper Marion “Suge” Knight. Others were Davis’s nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, Terrence “Bubble Up” Brown and DeAndre “Freaky” Smith.
“It’s a concerted effort of conspirators,” Kading said, adding that he believed that because the killing was premeditated Davis could face a first-degree murder charge.
“All the other direct conspirators or participants are all dead,” Kading said. “Keefe D is the last man standing among the individuals that conspired to kill Tupac.”
—With files from the Associated Press