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RIO YAMAT and KEN RITTER Associated Press
Published: 29 September 2023

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man who prosecutors say orchestrated the 1996 drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder Friday in a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop’s most enduring mysteries.

Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, has long been known to investigators as one of four suspects identified early in the investigation. He isn’t the accused gunman but was described as the "shot caller” by authorities Friday at a news conference and in court.

Davis himself admitted in interviews and in his 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he provided the gun used in the drive-by shooting.

Police homicide Lt. Jason Johansson said Davis' own public comments revived the investigation by providing police with “admissible evidence."

Seeking justice for 27 years

Davis was arrested early Friday while on a walk near his home on the outskirts of Las Vegas, 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.

The grand jury also voted to add a sentencing enhancement to the murder charge for gang activity that if he’s convicted, could add up to 20 additional years.

The first-ever arrest in the case came more than two months after Las Vegas police raided Davis’ home in the nearby city of Henderson for items they described at the time as “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Davis has an attorney who can comment on his behalf. Prosecutors said they did not know if he had a lawyer and several local attorneys said they did not know who from Las Vegas would represent him. Phone and text messages to Davis and his wife on Friday and in the months since the July 17 search weren’t returned.

“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."

Prosecutors said they have been in contact with the rapper's family and that they “are pleased with this news.”

tupac murder indictment medFILE - A visitor observes a display of late hip hop artist Tupac Shakur during the press preview day for the "Tupac Shakur. Wake Me When I'm Free" exhibition, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, at The Canvas at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The unsolved killing of Shakur has taken a major turn. Duane “Keffe D” Davis was arrested Friday morning, although the exact charge or charges were not immediately clear, according to two officials with first-hand knowledge of the arrest. The renewed activity comes nearly 30 years after Shakur was gunned down on Sept. 7, 1996. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

A gang related dispute

On the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur was in a BMW driven by Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight. 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 at the age of 25.

Davis, in his memoir, said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had slipped a gun into the back seat, from where he said the shots were fired.

He 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.

After the casino brawl, “Mr. Davis formulated a plan to exact revenge upon Mr. Knight and Mr. Shakur” in his nephew’s defense, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said.

Anderson died two years later. He denied any involvement in Shakur’s death.

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.

All Eyez on Tupac's legacy

On the night of July 17, Las Vegas police quietly surrounded the home where Davis and his wife, Paula Clemons, live in the nearby city of Henderson. Police lapel video obtained by AP showed SWAT officers detaining a man and his wife outside the home lit up by a swirl of red and blue lights after announcing their presence on a bullhorn. The couple’s faces are blurred in the videos.

Messages left Friday for Clemons weren’t immediately returned.

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.

tupac murder indictment court medClark County Chief Deputy Marc DiGiacomo, standing center, tells Chief Judge Jerry Wiese an indictment in the 1996 murder of rapper Tupac Shakur during a court hearing at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

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.

“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.”

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.

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