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Suspect charged in rapper Tupac Shakur’s fatal shooting makes first court appearance in Las Vegas

A few hours after his arrest last Friday a grand jury indictment was unsealed charging Duane ‘Keffe D’ Davis with murder. Prosecutors say he masterminded the shooting death of Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996

Duane Davis
Duane Davis, a former gang member charged in the 1996 murder of hip-hop star Tupac Shakur, is led into the courtroom at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 4, 2023.POOL (via REUTERS)

A self-described gangster who police and prosecutors say masterminded the shooting death of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996 made his first court appearance Wednesday on a murder charge. Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, stood shackled, wearing a dark-blue jail uniform and plastic orange slippers. He was scheduled to be arraigned on the charge Wednesday, but the hearing was cut short after he asked Judge Tierra Jones to postpone the hearing while he retains counsel in Las Vegas. Jones rescheduled the arraignment for Oct. 19.

“Law enforcement hasn’t cared for a long time,” Mopreme Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s stepbrother, told The Associated Press over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “Young Black men often deal with delayed justice because we’re often viewed as the criminals. So justice has been delayed for quite some time — in spite of all the eyes, all the attention, despite the celebrity of my brother.” “It’s already been 27 years and then the legal process, so-called wheels of justice, moves historically slow,” he said.

Davis was arrested last week near his home in suburban Henderson. A few hours after his arrest last Friday a grand jury indictment was unsealed in Clark County District Court charging him with murder. Grand jurors also voted to add sentencing enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon and alleged gang activity. If Davis is convicted, that could add decades to his sentence.

Los Angeles-based attorney Edi Faal told the AP in a brief phone call after the hearing that he is Davis’ longtime personal attorney and is helping him find a Nevada lawyer. “I have worked with him for more than two decades,” Faal said. “But at this point I do not have a comment.” Davis denied a request from the AP for an interview from jail where he’s being held without bond.

Davis had been a long-known suspect in the case, and publicly admitted his role in the killing in interviews ahead of his 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend.” “There’s one thing that’s for sure when living that gangster lifestyle,” he wrote. “You already know that the stuff you put out is going to come back; you never know how or when, but there’s never a doubt that it’s coming.”

Davis’ own comments revived the police investigation that led to the indictment, police and prosecutors said. In mid-July, Las Vegas police raided Davis’ home, drawing renewed attention to one of hip-hop music’s most enduring mysteries.

Prosecutors allege Shakur’s killing stemmed from a rivalry and competition for dominance in a musical genre that, at the time, was dubbed “gangsta rap.” It pitted East Coast members of a Bloods gang sect associated with rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight against West Coast members of a Crips sect that Davis has said he led in Compton, California.

Tension escalated in Las Vegas the night of Sept. 7, 1996, when a brawl broke out between Shakur and Davis’ nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, at the MGM Grand hotel-casino following a heavyweight championship boxing match won by Mike Tyson. Knight and Shakur went to the fight, as did members of the South Side Crips,” prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said last week in court. “And (Knight) brought his entourage, which involved Mob Piru gang members.”

After the casino brawl, Knight drove a BMW with Shakur in the front passenger seat. The car was stopped at a red light near the Las Vegas Strip when a white Cadillac pulled up on the passenger side and gunfire erupted. Shot multiple times, Shakur died a week later at age 25. Knight was grazed by a bullet fragment.

Davis has said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and handed a .40-caliber handgun to his nephew in the back seat, from which he said the shots were fired. In Nevada, a person can be convicted of murder for helping another person commit the crime.

Among the four people in the Cadillac that night, Davis is the only one who is still alive. Anderson died in a May 1998 shooting in Compton. Before his death, Anderson denied involvement in Shakur’s death. The other backseat passenger, DeAndre “Big Dre” or “Freaky” Smith, died in 2004. The driver, Terrence “Bubble Up” Brown, died in a 2015 shooting in Compton.

Knight, now 58, is serving a 28-year prison sentence for running over and killing a Compton businessman outside a burger stand in January 2015.

Sheriff Kevin McMahill, who oversees the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, has acknowledged criticism that his agency was slow to investigate Shakur’s killing. “That was simply not the case,” McMahill said. He called the investigation “important to this police department.”

Shakur’s sister, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, issued a statement describing the arrest as “a pivotal moment” but didn’t praise authorities who investigated the case. “The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community,” she said.

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