Duane Davis, the man charged in the 1996 slaying of Tupac Shakur, has finally been arraigned. The 60-year-old former gang leader known as "Keffe D," shackled and wearing a blue jumpsuit, appeared in court Nov. 2 and responded with a "not guilty" when asked by Clark County, Nev., District Judge Tierra Jones if he wanted to enter a plea on the charge of murder with use of a deadly weapon.
The Controversial murder trial of Tupac Shakur: Suspect Keffe D pleads not guilty
This was the third attempt for Davis to be arraigned. He previously appeared in court on Oct. 4, but because he didn't have a lawyer, the hearing was continued. Davis was back again on Oct. 19 with a lawyer; however, Ross Goodman, the attorney accompanying Davis, told Tierra that he might not be able to represent Davis long term. Tierra gave Davis another two weeks to sort things out.
Davis was flanked by two public defenders, Robert Arroyo and Charles Cano, in court on Nov. 2. It was not immediately clear what happened with Goodman, who had previously criticized prosecutors for moving forward with the case against Davis without witnesses, a murder weapon or the vehicle.
Davis was taken into custody by Las Vegas police on the morning of Sept. 29, 2023 — 27 years after the crime was committed.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said a grand jury had been seated in the case for "several months" and described Davis as the "on-ground, on-site commander" who "ordered the death" of Shakur. Davis was denied bail by Clark County, Nev., District Judge Jerry Wiese. It's unclear whether Davis, who was arrested while walking near his home in the nearby city of Henderson, has an attorney.
Davis — the uncle of an early suspect in Shakur's death, Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson — has claimed in past interviews — as well as his 2019 tell-all memoir, Compton Street Legend, that he was in the Cadillac that pulled up alongside the BMW the iconic rap star was in when the gunfire began in Sept. 7. 1996.
Shakur, who was 25, was hit with four rounds and died in a Vegas hospital six days later.
In various interviews, Davis implicated his nephew, who had been in an earlier confrontation with the rapper at a casino, saying Anderson was one of two people in the back seat where the shots were fired. Ultimately, however, it is Davis being held accountable.
"For 27 years the family of Tupac Shakur has been waiting for justice," Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a Friday news conference. "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."
Lt. Jason Johansson, a homicide officer with the Las Vegas police, characterized Davis, one of the last surviving witnesses to the shooting, as the "leader and shot caller." Johansson said that following Davis's 2018 interview, investigators "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."
On July 17, there was a stunning development in the long-dormant case when police raided the home of Davis's wife.
"LVMPD can confirm a search warrant was served in Henderson, Nevada, on July 17, 2023 as part of the ongoing Tupac Shakur homicide investigation," the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement obtained by Yahoo Entertainment. "We have no further comment at this time."
A warrant obtained by the Associated Press revealed that the home that was searched was connected to Davis, the uncle of early suspect Anderson. Anderson, one of Shakur's rivals, himself denied playing a role in the rap legend's murder after it happened. He died two years later in "an unrelated gang shooting in Compton, Calif."
According to the warrant, detectives searched for items "concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur," and they ended up seizing "multiple computers, a cellphone and hard drive, 'documentary documents,' a Vibe magazine that featured Shakur, 'purported marijuana,' several .40-caliber bullets, two 'tubs containing photographs' and a copy of Davis' 2019 tell-all memoir, Compton Street Legend."
'May never be solved'
In July, the department’s Lt. Jason Johansson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "It has been a while [since Shakur's 1996 murder]. It's a case that’s gone unsolved and hopefully one day we can change that."
Indeed, no arrests were ever made previously and publicly revealed updates in the case have been next to zilch in recent years.
There were few promising signs from the get-go. Just one year after the shooting, LVMPD Sgt. Kevin Manning, who headed the investigation, told the Las Vegas Sun there was so little evidence and so few witnesses willing to speak that the case "may never be solved." Various conspiracy theories have been spun over the years related to the rap icon's death.
A shooting that rocked the rap world
Shakur was shot on Sept. 7, 1996 while in Las Vegas where he attended a Mike Tyson boxing fight at the MGM Grand with Death Row Records founder Suge Knight. Their posse included fellow Death Row artists and their security detail, comprising members of the Mob Piru Bloods street gang. The fight barely lasted two minutes, and Tupac's crew spilled out of the elevators and came face-to-face with Orlando Anderson, a member of the rival South Side Crips gang, also in town from Southern California for the fight, and who had a preexisting beef with the Bloods.
The Death Row crew proceeded to beat and stomp Anderson and scattered when security finally arrived. Anderson declined to cooperate with police. He left the scene in a white Cadillac with three other men, bent on revenge.
"He wasn't coming back to Compton with nothing being done," fellow Crip member Devonta Lee told the Las Vegas grand jury.
According to Las Vegas authorities, the Cadillac was driven by Terrence Brown. Davis, who once played football with Knight but eventually found himself in the opposing Crips camp, was riding shotgun. Anderson was in the back seat with DeAndre Smith, aka Big Dre.
They eventually tracked down the Death Row entourage on the Strip. Their Caddy pulled alongside the BMW driven by Knight with Shakur in the passenger seat. A hail of bullets was fired. Shakur was rushed to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. He died six days later on Sept. 13, 1996, after his mother, Afeni Shakur, consented to have him taken off of life support.
Anderson, Brown and Smith all died since the incident, leaving Davis as the sole survivor.
In 2002, a two-part investigative report from the Los Angeles Times's Chuck Philips alleged the killer was Anderson.
"When he ran across the lobby of that casino and slugged another gang member, he signed his own death warrant," said former Los Angeles Police Det. Greg Kading, who led a task force to investigate the murder of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie, born Christopher Wallace). Las Vegas police, however, only interviewed Anderson once, and he was killed in an unrelated gang shooting two years later.
Biggie and Tupac were involved in an ugly public feud known as hop-hop's "East Coast-West Coast beef" at the time, and Wallace, 24, was gunned down in a Los Angeles drive-by on March 9, 1997 — a killing that has long been linked to Shakur's death. But the connection has never been proven and the case remains unsolved.