How Las Vegas police caught Tupac’s alleged murderer after three decades

Tupac Shakur’s murder in a drive-by shooting in 1996 remains unsolved  (Shutterstock)
Tupac Shakur’s murder in a drive-by shooting in 1996 remains unsolved (Shutterstock)

Twenty-seven years after Tupac Shakur was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on the Las Vegas strip, an alleged gang leader was arrested on 29 September and charged with the hip-hop legend’s murder.

According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Duane “Keefe D” Davis was the leader of a plot by the Southside Compton Crips gang to kill Tupac, after the rapper and his entourage fought a member of the gang following a Mike Tyson fight on 7 September 1996.

“Duane Davis was the shot-caller for this group of individuals that committed this crime,” homicide lieutenant Jason Johansson said during a press conference after the arrest. “He orchestrated the plan that was carried out.”

Police said Mr Davis, who has not yet entered a plea, and three others pulled alongside Tupac in a white Cadillac later on 7 September. Someone inside the car opened fire on the BMW where the rapper was sitting.

“At some point in time, as they were in the white Cadillac, Mr Davis took the gun that he had obtained and provided it to passengers in the rear seat of the vehicle,” the police official continued.

The arrests marks a huge development in one of the department’s – and entertainment history’s – most high-profile cold cases. Previously, no one had been charged in connection with the slaying.

We never had the necessary evidence to bring this case forward and present it for criminal charges,” Lieutenant Johansson said.

That changed when Mr Davis began speaking openly about his role in the shooting around 2018, with his version of events closely matching the one described by police.

“This case was reinvigorated as additional information came to light related to his homicide, especially Duane Davis’s own admissions to his involvement in this homicide he provided to numerous different media outlets,” Lieutenant Johansson said.

Indeed, in the 2018 Netflix documentary Unsolved: The Tupac and Biggie Murders and in his book Compton Street Legend which he published in 2019, Keffe D claimed that his nephew Orlando Anderson fatally shot Tupac – and that he was in the car with him when he opened fire.

“Tupac made an erratic move and began to reach down beneath his seat,” Mr Davis writes in the book.

“It was the first and only time in my life that I could relate to the police command, ‘Keep your hands where I can see them.’ Instead, Pac pulled out a strap, and that’s when the fireworks started.

“One of my guys from the back seat grabbed the Glock and started bustin’ back.” The arrest follows a police raid on Mr Davis’s house in Henderson, a city 15 miles southeast of the gambling mecca, that took place on Monday 17 July.

Although police have never made an arrest previously, a 2002 investigation by Los Angeles Times journalist Chuck Philips implicated several people in the killing, including Shakur’s hip hop rival Christopher Wallace, better known by his stage name Notorious BIG.

At the time of his death in September 1996 aged 25, Shakur was one of the most famous hip-hop stars on the planet.

The mythology surrounding the Changes rapper has only grown since then.

Who is Tupac Shakur?

Lesane Parish Crooks was born in East Harlem, New York, in 1971, the son of active members of the Black Panthers. He was renamed Tupac Amaru Shakur, taking his mother’s maiden name, at the age of one.

Shakur moved to Baltimore with his mother in 1984, and studied acting, poetry and jazz at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

His family relocated to Marin City, California, in 1988, and he began recording music under the stage name MC New York, according to a fan site.

Shakur signed to Interscope Records and released his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, in 1991.

The critically acclaimed debut focused on themes of gang violence and police corruption, drawing a rebuke from then vice president Dan Quayle, according to an official biography.

He went on to release best-selling albums Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z, Thug Life: Volume 1, Me Against the World and All Eyez on Me between 1993 and September 1996.

During this period, he also achieved plaudits for his acting in movies Poetic Justice, Gridlock'd and Gang Related.

Shakur had numerous run-ins with police. In 1993, he was charged with aggravated assault for the shootings of two off-duty police officers in Atlanta. The charges were later dropped, and Shakur settled civil lawsuits with both officers.

He and two friends were ambushed at Quad Studios in Times Square in November 1994, with Shakur being shot five times after trying to fight off the attackers.

He would later claim in an interview that he had been set up by Sean Coombs, better known as Puff Daddy, and the Notorious BIG.

The ensuing claims and counter-claims sparked the bitter East Coast-West Coast hip hop feud.

In December 1994, Shakur was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse and later sentenced to 18 months to 4.5 years in prison.

He served eight months in prison before he was released in 1995, pending an appeal.

Tupac’s death

On 7 September 1996, Shakur attended a boxing bout between his friend Mike Tyson and Bruce Sheldon at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

After the fight, Shakur attacked Los Angeles Crip gang member Orlando Anderson in the lobby of the hotel to avenge a recent beating of one of his bodyguards, who was affiliated with the rival Bloods street gang.

The assault was captured on the hotel’s security cameras.

According to Chuck Philip’s investigation, Anderson plotted with other gang members that night to immediately retaliate.

The gang members reportedly received a payment of $1m and the gun used in the shooting from Notorious BIG, whose record label Bad Boy Entertainment was embroiled in a war of words with Shakur’s Death Row label.

Three hours later at about 11pm, Shakur and record impresario Suge Knight were driving in a black BMW when they stopped at traffic lights on Las Vegas Boulevard.

As they chatted to fans, a white Cadillac pulled up alongside them and an occupant armed with a semiautomatic fired several shots, striking the hip hop star four times as he sat in the passenger seat.

Shakur died in hospital six days later from internal bleeding.

Anderson, who was considered the prime suspect in Shakur’s murder, was reportedly interviewed once by Las Vegas detectives, and maintained his innocence.

He was killed in an unrelated gang shooting in May 1998.

Notorious BIG strongly denied any involvement in the murder. He was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles six months after Shakur’s death.

Shakur released 11 albums posthumously, and has sold 75 million records.

He has since received numerous honours and memorials. In 2015, the Grammy Museum paid homage to his music career with the “All Eyez on Me” exhibition.

He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

And in June, Shakur received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.