Duane Davis, a former gang member known as Keffe D, was indicted on one count of murder with a deadly weapon by a Nevada grand jury Friday.
The victim: Tupac Shakur.
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It’s a case that has made national headlines since 1996 when it took place and has been the subject of a multitude of documentaries and scripted projects.
Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur, directed by Allen Hughes, one-time friend and one-time foe of Tupac’s, was the most high-profile recent series, having premiered in April. The series focuses on Tupac’s relationship with his mother Afeni, a Black Panther activist, rather than his death.
Hughes told Deadline that today was a “great day for the family.”
He revealed that when he was pitching the project around Hollywood, he had a different subtitle: This Is Not A Murder Investigation.
“[Dear Mama] was very matter of fact, very frank about what happened. There were no conspiracy theories. I interviewed tons of people and there were a lot of theories. But it wasn’t about that, it was about the magic of this kid as an artist and his relationship with his mother and their dynamic,” Hughes added.
Davis is the uncle of Orlando Anderson, who had been assaulted by Shakur and his pals in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Casino after the Mike Tyson fight. He wrote a memoir, Compton Street Legend, and has given many interviews that he was in the passenger seat of the car that later that night pulled up next to Shakur’s vehicle when Shakur was shot and later died.
“When there’s a constellation of unremarkable details that’s when you know someone’s telling the truth and that’s what it was with [Davis]. This is not make-believe,” Hughes said.
What does Hughes think Afeni Shakur, who died in 2016, would have made of the news today?
“She was a wise woman. Her concern was never about who killed [her] son. She was out there on the frontlines talking about all the women that lost their children to handgun violence, Black women in particular. She used her son’s death as a way to get out there at being an activist for gun control, quite frankly, and mental health issues. My gut, my opinion, this is not a fact, is that she knew what the streets said it was and it made sense and I don’t think she needed law enforcement to bring her closure,” he said.
Glo Cox, the aunt of the late rapper, is one of the most fascinating and interesting characters in Hughes’ docuseries. Has he spoken to her about the news?
“I’m in absolute love with Glo. She changed my life, just even as a spirit and a storyteller,” he said. “I was just with her in Atlanta, I like to go see her from time to time and have dinner, and I was just with her Tuesday night. Then this happened this morning. The only thing I can share is that it was a good day for the family. Glo, like Afeni, was not hung up on that. Any conversations I’ve ever had with her about this, including this morning, she never needed this for closure.”
Hughes also asked why it took so long to solve Tupac’s murder. He questioned whether if Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger had been shot in Las Vegas, it would have taken as long.
“It’s subconscious, the idiocy in the condition here in America that when you look at young Black males, you sweep this under the rug, who gives a f*ck?, that’s the attitude. By the way, in 1996, Vegas was the most heavily surveilled city in the world still that far back, there are cameras in every corner, they could have solved that,” he added. “The guy’s running around saying he did it.”
“They must feel they have an airtight case”
Other films to focus more specifically on the murder have included Lauren Lazin’s Tupac Resurrection, which received an Oscar nomination; Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake…, directed by Sean Long; Who Killed Tupac?, a six-part series that aired on A&E and featured the likes of Chuck D and Benjamin Crump; Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders, which was directed by Mike Dorsey and based on information from former LAPD investigator Greg Kading; and Nick Broomfield’s Biggie & Tupac.
There also was the scripted series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., which starred Josh Duhamel, Jimmi Simpson and Marcc Rose as Tupac. It aired on USA Network.
Many of these are currently available on streaming services; Murder Rap is airing on Peacock, Unsolved is on Netflix and Who Killed Tupac? is on Amazon’s Freevee.
Dorsey directed Murder Rap, was a co-producer of Unsolved, produced Deep Dive: The Biggie and Tupac Case Files and was a consultant on BET’s Death Row Chronicles, and has been following the case for years.
He told Deadline that there were times when he didn’t think there would ever be a breakthrough in the case, but that he started having hope when the Las Vegas police reopened the case in 2018. “You just start to wonder, are they going to pull it off or not,” he said.
Dorsey said he is confident that if a Nevada grand jury has handed down an indictment, they must be pretty confident. “I like to tell people, no one wants another OJ Simpson case. This is as high profile as it gets. I don’t think they take a swing like this unless they think they’re going to hit a home run. My gut instinct is that they must feel like they have an airtight case,” he added.
Investigators — including Kading, who has been one of the key people looking into this case — later spoke with Davis and he was interviewed under a proffer agreement, a device that allows someone to give information without incriminating themselves.
Did Dorsey ever expect Davis to be charged?
“No, I didn’t expect it, only because at that point, all we had was his proffer statement and you can’t have that used against you, so I didn’t know when I released [Murder Rap] in 2015,” he said. “Three years later, Keffe would start doing all these public interviews and started admitting to all this.”
The filmmaker said that when he was in production on USA Network’s Unsolved, which was essentially the scripted adaptation of Murder Rap, BET was making a show called Death Row Chronicles and they had convinced Davis to do an interview.
“I was present when he was interviewed for that and so as soon as that show aired a couple months later, I reached out to Las Vegas homicide and [said], ‘I don’t know if you were watching national television last night, but this guy just hinted at some pretty shocking revelations and I think kind of exposed himself’,” Dorsey said.
Some of those revelations included claiming that a rival rapper had ordered a hit on Shakur. Hughes said Davis has been pointing fingers at some pretty high-profile people as well.
Dorsey doesn’t believe anyone else will be connected to the case. But he was surprised that Davis kept doing interviews. “I think he just thought when he went on national television and said this, and nothing happened to him, I have to wonder if [it gave him] a false sense of security,” he said.
Will Dorsey be doing a follow-up documentary? “I always promised that I wouldn’t do another Murder Rap, that Murder Rap was kind of the final word. There’s some filmmakers out there that keep releasing new docs. I mean, never say never but I have considered a book. I’m interested in the whole experience, because there is so much that has happened since,” he said.
“Emanating in the zeitgeist”
Elsewhere, ABC News Studios launched its second season of Impact x Nightline on Hulu last week, kicking off with Who Shot Tupac?, a timely look at the life and death of the legendary rapper.
ABC News multiplatform reporter Ashan Singh fronted the doc, which features newly released body camera footage from a police raid in the murder investigation and interviews with the likes of Leila Steinberg, Shakur’s first manager, and Chris Carroll, a police officer who responded to the scene the night of Shakur’s shooting.
“We couldn’t have made up that timing,” Singh told Deadline. “We try to tell these stories as they’re emanating in the zeitgeist and we managed to get lucky with this one.”
The team only started putting together the fast-turnaround doc in August after the raid on a house where Davis was living. Candace Smith Chekwa, senior broadcast producer of Impact x Nightline, added, “So many people are convinced that they know who it was; the prevalent rumor was that it was Orlando Anderson for so long. And of course, Keffe D emerged, as you see, we mentioned him in the in the doc as well. But to see this now, all of our speculation, all of the people who we talked to who pointed to actually this would happen [was interesting].”
Singh added, “Everyone that we spoke to who is familiar with Tupac’s murder, they weren’t expecting much from this raid on Keffe D’s house. People had been forced to relive what happened back in 1996 and people were tired. So, for there to actually be real movement and an arrest in this case, I just really hope it brings a lot of people close to Tupac peace.”
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