LAS VEGAS (AP) — One of the last living witnesses to the fatal drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas was charged with murder with use of a deadly weapon Friday in the 1996 killing, a long-awaited breakthrough in a case that has frustrated investigators and fascinated the public ever since the hip-hop icon was gunned down 27 years ago.
A Nevada grand jury indicted Duane “Keffe D” Davis in the killing, prosecutors announced in court Friday.
The charges were revealed hours after Davis, 60, was arrested, according to two officials with first-hand knowledge of the arrest who requested anonymity to discuss the case.
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. Shakur was 25 when he was killed.
Las Vegas police raided a home in mid-July in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson that is tied to Davis. Police 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 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 or an interview in the more than two months since the house raid.
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 when a white Cadillac pulled up next to them and gunfire erupted. Shakur was shot multiple times and died a week later at the age of 25.
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 weapon 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 died two years later. He denied any involvement in Shakur’s death.
Davis revealed in his memoir 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 when 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.”
Davis has described himself as one of the last living witnesses to the shooting.
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 was not surprised by Davis’ 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’ 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.”
“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 Knight. Others were Anderson, Davis’ nephew; 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. “Keffe D is the last man standing among the individuals that conspired to kill Tupac.”