© Reuters. 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – Show – New York City, U.S., 07/04/2017 – Tupac Shakur. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/ File Photo
By Lisa Richwine, Steve Gorman
(Reuters) -A Nevada grand jury has indicted an accused former gang leader with the murder of hip-hop star Tupac Shakur three decades ago, authorities said on Friday, a breakthrough in a long-unsolved case that was a defining moment in the history of rap.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis was charged with one count of murder with a deadly weapon for his alleged role in leading a group of men to kill Shakur in a 1996 drive-by shooting near the Las Vegas Strip.
Authorities described Davis as the “shot caller” of a hurried plot to avenge the beating of his nephew, Orlando Anderson, inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena by Shakur’s entourage on the night of Sept. 7, 1996, not long before the shooting.
“He orchestrated the plan that was carried out to commit this crime,” Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Jason Johansson said at a news conference.
Police showed hotel security footage of several men kicking and punching a person they identified as Anderson. One of those seen attacking Anderson was identified as Marion “Suge” Knight, co-founder and then-CEO of Los Angeles-based Death Row Records, which produced Shakur’s records.
That incident, Johansson said, led to “the retaliatory shooting death of Tupac Shakur.”
After obtaining a gun, Davis, Anderson and two other individuals boarded a white Cadillac and located the black BMW (ETR:) in which Shakur was a passenger and Knight was driving, Johansson said. Shots were then fired from the Cadillac into the passenger side of the BMW.
Shakur, struck by four gunshots, died in a hospital six days later at the age of 25. Knight was grazed in the head by a bullet fragment but suffered only minor injuries.
Authorities did not say who fired the gun at Shakur. The other three men who were in the Cadillac with Davis, including his nephew, are all since deceased, they said.
Johansson said the violence at the MGM stemmed from a feud between two rival Los Angeles-area street gangs – the South Side Compton Crips, of which Duane was the reputed leader, and Mob Piru, with which Death Row Records and Knight were closely affiliated.
Members of both groups were in Las Vegas the night of the killing to attend a world heavyweight title boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon.
Johansson said detectives had pieced together most of the circumstances and people involved in the series of events that led to the shooting in the first few months of their investigation, but they long lacked “the necessary evidence to bring this case forward and present it for criminal charges.”
The case was “reinvigorated” in 2018 by “Davis’s own admissions to his involvement in this homicide investigation that he provided to numerous different media outlets” at that time, Johansson said.
Davis had admitted in interviews and in his 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he was in the Cadillac from which gunfire had erupted during the shooting.
That sparked a renewed push by homicide detectives to solve the case, with a concerted wave of witness interviews and evidence collection that led investigators to obtain a search warrant for Davis’ home in July, which in turn uncovered sufficient additional evidence to bring the case to a grand jury and ultimately secure an indictment, Johansson said.
Davis was arrested outside his home on Friday morning and was in police custody, prosecutors said. Reuters was unable to reach Davis and it was not immediately unclear whether he had secured legal representation.
Shakur, an influential performer widely regarded as one of rap music’s greatest artists, was also one of its most commercially successful, selling more than 75 million records worldwide.
He was best known for raw lyrics laced with violence, sex and profanity describing life in the ghetto. His album “All Eyez on Me,” released shortly before his death, celebrated his own outlaw image.
Beloved by his fans — and detested by politicians — for songs that celebrated violence and misogyny, Shakur was no stranger to trouble, having spent much of the last two and a half years of his life in and out of court, jail or hospitals.
Shakur became more popular in death than in life, and in 2017 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.