One of the last living witnesses to the fatal drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas was charged with murder Friday in the 1996 killing, a long-awaited breakthrough in a case that has frustrated investigators and fascinated the public.
A Nevada grand jury indicted Duane “Keffe D” Davis on one count of murder with a deadly weapon, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo announced in court Friday.
Davis has long been known to investigators and has himself admitted in interviews and in his 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he was in the Cadillac from which the gunfire erupted during the September 1996 drive-by shooting.
DiGiacomo described Davis as the “on-ground, on-site commander” who “ordered the death” of Shakur, who was killed at 25. Homicide Lt. Jason Johansson called Davis the “leader and shot caller.”
“For 27 years the family of Tupac Shakur has been waiting for justice,” Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a news conference Friday. “While I know there’s been many people who did not believe that the murder of Tupac Shakur was important to this police department, I’m here to tell you that is simply not the case.”
After Davis’ 2018 interview, Johansson said the police department “knew this was likely our last time to take a run at this case to successfully solve this case and bring forth a criminal charge.”
The charges were revealed hours after Davis, 60, was arrested this morning while on a walk near his home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, according to DiGiacomo.
In mid-July, Las Vegas police raided Davis’ home. They were looking for items “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur,” according to the search warrant. They collected 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.
“It has often been said that justice delayed is justice denied,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said after the hearing in a brief comment to the AP. “In this case, justice has been delayed, but justice won’t be denied.” A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for several months.
On Friday, Clark County District Judge Jerry Wiese denied Davis bail.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Davis has an attorney who can comment on his behalf. Davis hasn’t responded to multiple phone and text messages from The Associated Press seeking comment since the house raid.
Messages left Friday for his wife, Paula Clemons, also weren’t returned.
On Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur 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 near the Las Vegas Strip when a white Cadillac pulled up next to them and gunfire erupted. Shakur was shot multiple times and died a week later.
The rapper’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 still largely considered one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.
In his memoir, Davis said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had slipped the gun used in the killing into the backseat, from where he said the shots were fired.
Davis implicated his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, saying he was one of two people in the backseat. Anderson, a known rival of Shakur, had been involved in a casino brawl with the rapper shortly before the shooting. Anderson denied any involvement in Shakur’s death. He died two years later.
After the casino brawl, “Mr. Davis formulated a plan to exact revenge upon Mr. Knight and Mr. Shakur” in his nephew’s defense, DiGiacomo said.
Emails seeking comment from two lawyers who have previously represented Knight were not immediately returned. Knight was grazed by a bullet fragment in the shooting but had only minor injuries. He is serving a 28-year prison sentence in California for an unrelated voluntary manslaughter charge.
In his memoir, Davis revealed that he first broke his silence 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. He agreed to speak with them about Tupac’s killing, as well as the fatal shooting six months later of Tupac’s rap rival, Biggie Smalls, also known as the Notorious B.I.G.
“They offered to let me go for running a ‘criminal enterprise’ and numerous alleged murders for the truth about the Tupac and Biggie murders,” he wrote. “They promised they would shred the indictment and stop the grand jury if I helped them out.”
Shakur was feuding at the time with rap rival Biggie Smalls, 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.
Greg Kading, a retired Los Angeles police detective who spent years investigating the Shakur killing and wrote a book about it, said he’s not surprised by Davis’ arrest.
The former Los Angeles police detective said he believed the investigation gained new momentum in recent years following Davis’ public descriptions of his role in the killing, including his 2019 memoir. “It’s those events that have given Las Vegas the ammunition and the leverage to move forward,” Kading said. “Prior to Keffe D’s public declarations, the cases were unprosecutable as they stood.”
“All the other direct conspirators or participants are all dead,” Kading said. “Keffe D is the last man standing among the individuals that conspired to kill Tupac.”