LAS VEGAS — The first arrest in the 1996 slaying of Tupac Shakur had its roots in the investigation of the killing of Biggie Smalls.
The shooting deaths of the two hip-hop luminaries and rivals — Shakur in Las Vegas and Smalls in Los Angeles six months later — have always been culturally inseparable, and one man, Duane Keffe D. Davis, found himself involved in both investigations.
On Friday, Davis was arrested and charged with murder, with prosecutors saying he ordered and masterminded the Shakur killing.
Now retired Los Angeles police detective Greg Kading was assigned to investigate the slaying of Smalls — whose legal name was Christopher Wallace — and in 2009 interviewed Davis as a person of interest in the case. Davis had been at the party at the Peterson Automotive Museum that Wallace had just left when he was shot.
Kading had helped build a federal drug case against Davis to leverage his cooperation with the Los Angeles police. However, no arrests have been made in the Wallace case to date.
“He confesses to his involvement in the Tupac Shakur case, he gives all the details of how he and his co-conspirators killed Tupac,” Kading recalled in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.
Davis, who had immunity for what he said in his police interview but not what he said outside it, went on to divulge many of the same details in documentaries, podcasts, and a tell-all 2019 memoir. This new information rejuvenated the Las Vegas police probe and contributed to his grand jury indictment.
“He has essentially talked himself right into jail,” Kading said.
Davis, known to investigators as one of the four suspects early in the investigation, was described as the group’s ringleader. In Nevada, a defendant can be charged with a crime, including murder, if they aid in committing the crime.
Davis, now 60, admitted in his memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he provided the gun used in the drive-by shooting.
Davis was arrested early Friday while on a walk near his home in Las Vegas. The Nevada grand jury indicted him on one count of murder with a deadly weapon. He is due in court next week.
The grand jury also added a sentencing enhancement for gang activity to the murder charge, which could add up to 20 additional years if he’s convicted.
Transcripts released on Friday provide insight into the first month of grand jury proceedings. Testimony from former associates of Davis, friends of Shakur, and retired police officers involved in the case early on revealed a deepening rift between Shakur’s music label Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records, which had ties to Davis and represented Wallace.
“It started the whole West Coast/East Coast” rivalry that defined the hip-hop scene of the mid-1990s, one of Davis’ former associates testified.
Davis declined an interview request from jail, and no attorney is listed in court records who can comment on his behalf. Attempts to reach Davis and his wife were unsuccessful in July when their home in Henderson was raided.
In a statement, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the rapper’s sister, called the arrest a victory but maintained a measured tone.
“This is no doubt a pivotal moment. The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community,” she said. “It’s important to me that the world, the country, the justice system, and our people acknowledge the gravity of the passing of this man, my brother, my mother’s son, my father’s son.”
She did not praise the authorities working on the case.
“I know there has been doubt that the murder of Tupac Shakur was important to this police department,” Sheriff Kevin McMahill stated at a news conference. “I’m here to tell you, that was simply not the case. It was not the case back then, and it is not the case today.”
He emphasized that every victim and their passing remains a priority for the police department.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur and Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight were in Las Vegas for a boxing match. After the fight, a brawl ensued between them and Davis, along with his nephew Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, who had a previous feud with Shakur.
Later that night, Shakur, seated in Knight’s BMW, was attacked by gunfire from a Cadillac that pulled up next to them.
Shakur, aged 25, was shot multiple times and passed away a week later.
In his memoir, Davis claimed he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had supplied the gun used in the drive-by shooting. He implicated Anderson as one of the two people in the backseat, although Anderson denied any involvement in Shakur’s death.
At the time of his death, Shakur’s album “All Eyez on Me” remained on the charts with over 5 million copies sold. He is still widely regarded as one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.
Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton and Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed.
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