Six months before Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas in September 1996, he and the man ultimately charged with his murder faced off in a rap showdown, according to newly released grand jury records.
Backstage at the Soul Train Awards show in March 1996, Duane Keith Davis, aka Keffe D, and Shakur were involved in a group confrontation in which a gun was “brandished,” according to Reggie Wright Jr., who testified before the Nevada grand jury last week.
This handout image provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on September 29, 2023 shows the booking image of Duane “Keffe D” Davis.HANDOUT/Las Vegas Metropolitan Police De/AFP via Getty Images
Until Thursday, Shakur’s murder was one of the most notorious unsolved murders in modern American history. He was shot while sitting in the passenger seat of a BMW driven by rap mogul Suge Knight near the Vegas Strip.
Six months later, another top hip-hop star, Biggie Smalls, whose birth name was Christopher Wallace, was shot and killed in Los Angeles in what some suspect was staged revenge for Shakur’s murder.
Despite much speculation that Shakur’s fatal shooting was also sparked by gang rivalries, no charges were ever filed until Davis’ arrest – and there was no concrete connection between the 25-year-old rapper and the man now charged in connection with his Killing.
The Vegas case remained unsolved until this summer, when police searched Davis’ Las Vegas home, marking the first visible sign of action in the investigation in years. Davis is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center and is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday.
In the period leading up to Shakur’s murder, Wright, a former police officer and son of a former Compton Police lieutenant, worked as a security guard for Knight’s Death Row Records. Shakur had become one of Death Row’s top artists and joined the label in 1995.
In March 1996, top-class musicians gathered at the legendary Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for the prestigious Soul Train Music Awards.
Both Shakur and Biggie would be accepting awards that night, and both brought escort and security to the event, some of whom had gang ties, Wright said. Wright testified that he was also later convicted of federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
Tensions arose behind the scenes that night when the two crossed paths, both allegedly flanked by gang followers, Wright said.
A rivalry had already “escalated” between East and West Coast record labels and the gangs with which they had ties, fueled by bad blood, insults – perceived, real and even translated into rap lyrics – and cross-party violence, they said Wright said.
At the Soul Train Awards, Biggie and Shakur allegedly faced off in a “confrontation” with their crews, Wright testified. Shakur was accompanied by a group of members of the L.A.-based Bloods street gang, with which Knight has long been associated, Wright said. Wright said Biggie’s security force included members of the South Side Crips – including Davis.
As Shakur and his group “walked into the auditorium or exited our vehicles to get into the auditorium,” Biggie and his crew “came out,” Wright testified.
“So I guess it was bad timing and then it happened.” [was] an argument followed by a small shooting or finger-pointing,” he said.
Wright testified in Vegas that Shakur was “the most vocal” in the altercation, “and he started yelling at Biggie and his entourage.”
Wright said he recognized some of Biggie’s team from his law enforcement days, one in particular: Davis.
During the argument, one of Biggie’s men allegedly took a “gun from his hip, but he never raised the gun,” Wright told the grand jury, describing how he stood next to Shakur and his safety instincts got the better of them, so he raised his own gun .
“I pointed my gun at the gentleman with the gun and asked him not to point the gun and not to raise the gun,” he said. He testified that he did not see Davis himself with a firearm at that event and that no shots were fired at the Soul Train Awards.
Ultimately, a brawl would break out in Las Vegas between members and allies of two rival gangs from Compton, California – Mob Piru Bloods and South Side Compton Crips – just hours before a drive-by “retaliatory shootout” turned deadly. That’s what killed Shakur, police said.
Although Davis may not have fired the gun at Shakur himself, his consent would have authorized the trigger, authorities said.
In fact, a member of the South Side Crip, Devonta “Dirt Rock” Lee, testified that another member of Davis’ South Side Crip faction, Deandre “Big Dre” Smith, had claimed to Lee that he was the one who killed Shakur attacked.
After the strip brawl in Las Vegas that September night, Smith, Davis and others drove together and, according to police, Davis “developed a plan to obtain a firearm and get revenge” on Suge Knight and Tupac for knocking down her partner had. Neither Smith nor her partner Orlando Anderson are alive.
“They didn’t have anything set in stone that they wanted to do, but the whole idea was to catch them,” Lee testified, referring to Shakur and Knight.
Smith said he was in the car with Davis, who handed the gun to others in the vehicle – but it was Smith who had a better view of Shakur and, according to Lee’s statement, was “in a better position to do it.”
According to police, Davis is the only living suspect in the murder.
“That’s exactly what Dre told me he did the shooting,” Lee said, adding that Davis was “the one who’s going to make all the arrangements and plans until the gun ends up in someone else.”[s] Hand.”