Last living suspect in 1996 drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur indicted in Las Vegas on murder charge

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) — In a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop’s most enduring mysteries, a man who prosecutors say ordered the 1996 murder of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder on Friday.

Investigators have long known Duane “Keffe D” Davis as one of four suspects identified early in the investigation. He is not the accused gunman, but he was described as the ringleader of the group by authorities at a news conference and in court on Friday. If you assist someone in committing a crime, you can be charged with a crime, including murder, in Nevada.

“Duane Davis was the shot caller for this group of individuals who committed this crime,” said Lt. Jason Johansson of the Las Vegas Police Department’s Homicide Division, “and he orchestrated the plan that was carried out.”

Davis has admitted in interviews and in his 2019 autobiography, “Compton Street Legend,” that he supplied the gun used in the drive-by shooting.

Davis’ public comments, authorities said Friday, rekindled the investigation.

Davis, now 60, was apprehended on a walk near his home on the outskirts of Las Vegas early Friday, just hours before prosecutors announced in court that a Nevada grand jury had indicted the self-described “gangster” on one count of murder with a deadly weapon. He is scheduled to appear in court next week.

The grand jury also voted to add a gang activity sentencing enhancement to the murder charge, which could add up to 20 years to his sentence if he is convicted.

Hundreds of pages of transcripts released Friday provide insight into the first month of grand jury proceedings, which began in late July with testimony from Davis’s former associates, Shakur’s friends, and a group of retired police officers involved in the case from the start. Their testimony painted a picture of a deep, escalating schism between Shakur’s music label Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records, which had ties to Davis and represented Shakur’s rap rival, Biggie Smalls, for the jurors.

One of Davis’ former associates testified that “it started the whole West Coast/East Coast” rivalry that primarily defined the hip-hop scene during the mid-1990s.

The first arrest in the case occurred in mid-July, when Las Vegas police raided Davis’ home in the nearby city of Henderson for items they described as “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur.”

Davis refused an interview request from jail on Friday, and court records do not list an attorney who can speak on his behalf. Messages left for Davis and his wife on Friday and in the months since the July 17 search have gone unanswered.

Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the rapper’s sister, described the arrest as a victory in a statement released on Friday.

“There is no doubt that this is a watershed moment. “The silence that has surrounded this case for the past 27 years 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.”

Shakur was in a BMW driven by Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight on the night of September 7, 1996. When a white Cadillac pulled up next to them at a red light near the Las Vegas Strip, gunfire erupted.

Shakur, 25, was shot multiple times and died a week later.

Davis claimed in his memoir that he was in the Cadillac’s front passenger seat and had slipped a gun into the back seat, from which he claimed the shots were fired.

He named his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, as one of the two people in the backseat. Anderson, a known Shakur foe, was involved in a casino brawl with the rapper just before the shooting.

“Little did anyone know that this incident right here would ultimately lead to the retaliatory shooting and death of Tupac Shakur,” Johansson, the police lieutenant, said.

Anderson passed away two years later. He denied any involvement in the death of Assata Shakur.

Emails seeking comment from two lawyers who previously represented Knight were not returned immediately. In the shooting, Knight was grazed by a bullet fragment but suffered only minor injuries. In California, he is serving a 28-year prison sentence for an unrelated voluntary manslaughter charge.

On the night of July 17, Las Vegas police surrounded the home where Davis and his wife, Paula Clemons, reside. The Associated Press obtained police lapel video showing SWAT officers detaining a man and his wife outside a home illuminated by a swirl of red and blue lights after announcing their presence on a bullhorn. In the videos, the couple’s faces are obscured.

Multiple computers, a cellphone and hard drive, a Vibe magazine featuring Shakur, several.40-caliber bullets, two “tubs containing photographs,” and a copy of Davis’ memoir were seized, according to police.

Greg Kading, a retired Los Angeles police detective who spent years investigating the Shakur murder and wrote a book about it, says Davis’ arrest comes as no surprise.

“He put himself squarely in the middle of the conspiracy,” Kading said, adding that Davis’ actions provided Las Vegas police with “the ammunition and leverage to move forward.”

Kading said he expected the murder charge because Davis’ public comments indicated the crime was planned.

“All the other direct conspirators or participants are all dead,” Kading stated. “Keefe D is the last man standing among the individuals that conspired to kill Tupac.”

The rapper died while his fourth solo album, “All Eyez on Me,” was still selling well, with over 5 million copies sold. Shakur, who has been nominated for six Grammy Awards, is widely regarded as one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.

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