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For 27 years, the slaying of Tupac Shakur remained one of the most famous cold cases in the world. On Sept. 7, 1996, the rapper was struck by gunfire in his car on the Las Vegas Strip. He died six days later. And until last week, no arrests had been made.
Then last Friday, Las Vegas authorities dropped a bombshell: Duane "Keefe D" Davis, the last surviving witness to the shooting, had been arrested and charged with Shakur's murder.
Speaking at a press conference following the arrest, Las Vegas Metro Police Lt. Jason Johansson characterized Davis as the "leader and shot caller" of the drive-by. Johansson explained that detectives decided to "take a last run at this case" after Davis released a 2019 memoir, Compton Street Legend, admitting to a role in the shooting.
'I essentially solved this case'
DJ Vlad, a prolific interviewer in the hip-hop community via his VladTV, spoke to Davis about his claims a few months after the book's release and believes the answers he recorded helped crack the investigation.
"I think, really, this was for the Tupac fans out there," Vlad tells Yahoo Entertainment. "I felt that I essentially solved this whole case four years ago when I did the first interview with Keefe D in July of 2019. I mean, it was all laid out from beginning to end, and so for me, that was my sense of closure, just as a fan of 'Pac."(Vlad had previously revealed that homicide detectives contacted him about his session with Davis.)
Davis was in the front passenger seat of a Cadillac that pulled up alongside the BMW sedan with Tupac and Death Row Records boss Marion "Suge" Knight. Davis said he passed a gun into the back, where the shots rang out. Shakur was struck four times.
Davis implicated his nephew Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson as one of two people in the back seat. Anderson was involved in a brawl with Shakur at the MGM Grand shortly before the incident and was allegedly seeking payback. (Anderson, who maintained his innocence, was killed in a gang shooting in Los Angeles in 1998.)
"[Davis] was in the car and admitted to some level of involvement in the whole incident," says Vlad of his interview. "Whatever that is, is really up to authorities to figure out, you know, how liable he is in terms of the whole situation.
"Just because Keefe got arrested doesn't mean that Keefe is getting convicted."
After a grand jury returned a single count of murder with a deadly weapon against him, Las Vegas police arrested Davis, now 60, while he was on a walk in the community of Henderson, Nev. The grand jury also included a sentencing enhancement for gang activity, which could add 20 years to a prison term should Davis be convicted.
Davis made a brief first court appearance on Wednesday, and had his arraignment set for Oct. 19.
'Brushed it under the rug'
Vlad has his own theories about why it took nearly three decades to finally make an arrest in the case.
"During that time, 1996, Vegas was trying to kind of reinvent itself as a family destination," he says. "I think that a long, prolonged investigation of a bunch of rappers [from] L.A. shooting each other, in the middle of the street in Las Vegas, would have gone against what the overall financial goal was for that city, and I think because of that, they just sort of brushed it under the rug and let it go. ... But ultimately, who knows? You'd have to ask law enforcement during that time as to why they made that decision.”
'A certain level of closure'
Meanwhile, Sekyiwa "Set" Shakur, Tupac's sister and the president of the Tupac Shakur Foundation, wrote on Instagram on Sept. 29 that "this is no doubt a pivotal moment." "The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community," she continued. "His life and death matters and should not go unsolved or unrecognized, so, yes, today is a victory, but I will reserve judgment until all the facts and legal proceedings are complete."
"Suge" Knight, who is serving a 28-year prison sentence in California on an unrelated voluntary manslaughter charge, was grazed by a bullet fragment in the head during the shooting. He came out this week saying he will not testify against Davis.
Vlad says he isn't surprised, given Knight's "history of not cooperating with police" and having "a history of just creating chaos."
Shakur, a six-time Grammy nominee and star of such films as Juice and Poetic Justice, is still considered one of the most influential rappers in history, having sold more than 75 million records. Vlad calls the icon an inspiration.
"If you look at my history, the biggest project I did during my DJ career was a Tupac mixtape. It was called Rap Phenomenon 2. It won Mixtape of the Year and it gave me a career in hip-hop," he says.
"I think [with the arrest] there's a certain level of closure to the hip-hop community and to the fans."