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.”
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.”
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, who spent some of his teenage years in Baltimore and became one of the most prolific figures in hip-hop, was 25 when he was shot multiple times. He 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.
As a teen, Shakur and his mother moved from New York to Baltimore, and he took up dance, theater and rapping as a student at Roland Park Middle School and then the Baltimore School for the Arts.
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, Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc 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.
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.
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.”