Why Tupac’s Alleged Killer Could Be Caught in a Legal ‘Catch-22’

Keffe D trial forecast Keffe D trial forecast.jpg - Credit: Bob Berg/Getty Images
Keffe D trial forecast Keffe D trial forecast.jpg - Credit: Bob Berg/Getty Images

Since the arrest and indictment of Duane “Keffe D” Davis for the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur, people have speculated about whether the Los Angeles Police Department will be reinvigorated to pursue an investigation into the other great tragedy of that era in hip-hop — the 1997 murder of the Notorious B.I.G. But former LAPD detective Greg Kading, who was the lead detective of an interagency task force created in 2006 to investigate Biggie’s murder, tells Rolling Stone that he feels the murder was likely the result of a smaller conspiracy that would be much harder to prove and prosecute than the one that took Shakur’s life.  “I don’t think it’s going to have any carry-over,” he says. “It’s a different set of circumstances and people.”

In Kading’s view, the key potential witnesses to Biggie’s murder include Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight, who was in jail at the time on a probation violation and is currently serving a long sentence due to a 2015 hit-and-run; Wardell “Poochie” Fourse, Biggie’s alleged shooter, who died in 2003; and a woman known as Theresa Swann, who cooperated with the investigation but might not be a reliable witness on the stand. “Suge’s already doing essentially a life sentence,” Kading says. “And [Swann] actually did get immunity for her cooperation. So now you’ve got nothing left. If [Swann] is the only witness you have saying Suge Knight ordered Biggie’s hit, that ain’t going to last an hour in court. It’s unprosecutable.”

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Kading was the lead detective of a joint LAPD, DEA, and FBI task force created to investigate Biggie’s murder in the 2000s. That unit was disbanded in April 2010, shortly after a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, against the LAPD was dismissed. Kading used Swann’s statements as part of his 2011 book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations, which was adapted into a documentary in 2013. (Swann’s real name was concealed in Kading’s reporting for her protection.)

Murder Rap also drew heavily on sworn statements by Davis, who has now been charged with Tupac’s murder. Kading theorizes in the book that Tupac was killed by Davis’ nephew Orlando Anderson, using a gun retrieved by Keffe D, in retaliation for a fight at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. For the better part of a decade, Davis has done interviews on TV and on YouTube channels repeating what he previously told federal prosecutors about his involvement in Tupac’s murder. But while his 2009 federal proffer sessions granted him what Kading describes as a “certain amount of protection against self-incrimination” only for the duration of the sessions, his subsequent statements in his Compton Street Legend book, on BET’s Death Row Chronicles, and other interviews were fair game for the LVMPD.

As far back as 2018, an LVMPD statement announced that the department was “reviewing the case in its entirety” as a result of Davis’ statements on TV. Kading tells Rolling Stone that he believes the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department allowed Davis to keep incriminating himself in order to have more evidence to eventually prosecute him with.

“It’s not him confessing once. It’s not him confessing twice. It’s him confessing over and over and for years,” Kading says over the phone. “That’s a stronger case when you present that in front of a judge or a jury.”

Kading talked to Rolling Stone about the Shakur murder case, why he feels vindicated for Murder Rap, and Davis’ controversial claims that Diddy offered him $1 million to kill Shakur and Suge Knight. (Diddy has repeatedly denied any involvement in Shakur’s death, calling the accusation “nonsense” in 2016.)

If Keffe D is convicted for Tupac Shakur’s murder, will you feel like your mission has been fulfilled in writing your book and putting out the documentary to get the truth out to the public?
Yeah. There’s a sense of vindication because we say it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove. Well, now we’re to the point where we’re proving what we’ve known for a long, long time. For me, the main thing is that this goes down correctly in history as it should, as a solved case. It’s not an unsolved mystery anymore, nor will it ever be moving forward. Tupac Shakur is no longer going to be an unsolved case, and I think that’s huge.

What do you think took so long, given that Keffe D had been speaking about that night for years now?
The best answer to that is going to have to come from Las Vegas PD, they’re the responsible investigative agency. I can offer an opinion, but that’s the extent of it. I think that most likely is that it started out with just bad optics. Keffe D’s out there running at the mouth for a better part of three, four, or five years, and it looks really bad on the department because there’s the impression that nobody’s doing anything in response to the confessions.

So there’s now public pressure. And then you finally get a good investigator [LVMPD’s Cliff Mogg], who’s actually a confident and caring investigator, gets his hands on the case files and decides that he’s going to solve it. He’s committed to solving it before he retires. And then the decision’s likely made: “Hey, what’s the harm of letting him continue to talk?” Within law enforcement, especially when you’re dealing with these type of things with suspects, you want him to keep talking.

So even though Keffe D’s essentially [hung] himself, they just keep feeding him the rope, until the point comes where the district attorney’s office says, “OK, we’ve got enough to where we’ve got what I believe is going to be a provable case in court.”

Did you think that day would come where somebody would actually be arrested?
To be honest, I was giving up hope. I was very skeptical that this thing would ever result in an indictment and arrest and now a prosecution. But I am glad to be wrong about that. I’m optimistic now because this has taken place. I was aware that there had been an invigorated investigation with Keffe, but even knowing that for the past two years, it just still seemed to be taking too long. So I am just pleasantly surprised is where I’m at with it.

What do you think they may have found during the July raid on Davis’ house to further their prosecution? 
It’s very unlikely that they found anything that had tremendous investigative value. Most likely they found maybe some historical stuff like in gang indicia, where he’s got maybe old photographs hanging out with South Side Crips. Maybe some gang writing on different types of materials in the house. Stuff to just show that he was, and perhaps still is, active within the gangs. That would be one thing that they could use.

They probably wanted to go and find out whether anything that is stored on his phone or his computer might have any historical information. Again, most likely just gang-related. I don’t think that the idea of finding ballistic evidence or a gun was ever something that they thought was going to be practical after all of this time. So I think it was just historical materials to kind of provide support for their claims that this is a gang-related murder. They’re probably using any information that they could find to make some connections, but they weren’t looking for a smoking gun, because nobody actually thinks that exists anymore.

Given that you referenced his interviews as essentially confessions, I assume you think they have a strong case against him?
Yes, I do. Confessions are not circumstantial evidence. Confessions are demonstrable hard evidence. And so here Keffe’s got himself in a really interesting dilemma. He confesses multiple times to the cops dating back to 2009. And even though those interviews provided Keffe D with a certain amount of protection against self-incrimination, if he now goes and pleads not guilty, in essence, what he’s saying is, “I lied in the interviews. I’m telling you today, I didn’t do the killing.”

Well, if he’s lying during those proffer sessions, then he’s voided the agreement. So now those confessions to law enforcement can be brought in, potentially, because he violated the terms of the agreement by saying “I lied”. It’s a real interesting legal quagmire he’s going to be in.

That’s a catch-22 there.
[Laughs.] That’s exactly it, catch-22.

Do you feel like his best bet would be to just plead guilty and see what leniency that he could get? 
My prediction is that he’ll plead not guilty. He’s going to meet with attorneys. They’ll take a long time to decide what his best move is. They’ll probably put forth a motion to try to get a judge to exclude any of his public statements from trial. Unlikely that any judge would exclude his statements. So once they lose that court battle, then the next thing will be, “All right, listen, you’re going to go into court and they’re going to hear every single one of your confessions that you made. You’re a dead man walking. I think we should take a plea deal.”

And go back to the DA office and say, “Are you willing to avoid trial with a plea deal?” And the DA office may say, “Yeah, we’ll give him 20 years with the hopes for parole as a second-degree murder.” Because they’re doing a gang enhancement, they’re doing a gun enhancement, they’re doing premeditation. His first-degree charges are 25 to life without possibility [of parole]. So the only hope Keffe would have of ever seeing the light of day again is to take a deal with a lesser charge.

How do you feel about the recent grand jury testimony that it was Deandre “Big Dre” Smith who fired the fatal shots and not Orlando Anderson?
When this witness, who I know very well, who testified at the grand jury, was actively involved in helping us investigate this case, he believed it because Dre was bragging about it. Now, this is his opinion. He was not an eyewitness. He wasn’t there. He has no firsthand knowledge. He’s offering his opinion at the grand jury. He’s wrong. And here’s why he is wrong: Because when Keffe D does his police interviews, that is when he is at the most risk of lying during those interviews, he only harms himself.

When Keffe D sits down and he’s presented with these proffer sessions, he says it was Orlando, and he says it multiple times: “I gave the gun to Orlando.” Now, he could have easily lied and said it was Dre and avoided throwing his own nephew under the bus. Throwing his own nephew under the bus cost him a lot within the family. When I wrote my book and it became public, Keffe D got all kinds of backlash, not only from his family but from the neighborhood for ratting out his nephew. You got to remember, Orlando Anderson was really well-respected within the gang, much more than Dre.

So then when he goes out and starts publicly admitting to his role in this thing and he says, “I just gave it to the back seat. I don’t know who did the shooting. Somebody in the back” — all he’s trying to do is avoid that already existing conflict from when he threw his nephew under the bus. Now he’s like, “Maybe it could have been Dre, it could have been Orlando.” If both of those guys are dead at the time that you’re making your confession to law enforcement in 2009 and you’re going to provide false information, then you would definitely say it was Dre, because you don’t have any loyalty to him like you would your own nephew.

You also have to understand that within the environment of a gang, it’s Orlando Anderson’s job to pull the trigger, not only because already a well-known shooter and he’s got a reputation, it’s because he’s the one that got his ass kicked. He’s a punk if he lets somebody else take the gun out of his hand and [retaliate] for his ass-kicking. Orlando Anderson is not going to let somebody step in front of him and do that.

Keffe D has alleged that Diddy offered to pay him $1 million to kill Tupac and Suge; Diddy has repeatedly denied any involvement in the shooting. What actual evidence would the court need to see that as a legitimate claim?
They’re going to need very credible substantiating witnesses. They would have to say, “I was there when I heard him make the solicitation,” or “I was there when the money got paid, and it was very clear that that money was designated for this purpose,” or “I delivered the money.” Whether those people exist or not, I don’t know. I’ve always given a caveat to the whole “Puffy” Combs connection… Puffy’s not built like Suge Knight, and I don’t think Puffy was truly intentionally trying to get either Tupac or Suge killed. I don’t like Puffy. I don’t think he’s a murderer.

So to clarify, the 2009 statements that Keffe D made during his proffer sessions with you only granted him protection during those actual sessions?
Yes. But that session could take place over multiple interviews. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s like, “OK, at the table right now, only here.” It’s like, “We’re going to continue talking next week. We have some more questions.” It was under the umbrella of his ongoing cooperation at the time.

Can you speak to how clear you were to him about the terms, as in “this does not grant you lifetime immunity?”
It was very clear. His lawyer, along with the United States Attorney, were the ones who discussed the terms. As law enforcement officers, we don’t have the authority to offer those kinds of deals. Those have to happen at the prosecution level. So it was the United States Attorney, along with Keffe D’s own attorney that had agreed on behalf of Keffe D to do the proffer.

Did you or anyone else that you know of speak to him recently and ask him, “What are you doing? You’re implicating yourself, you’re not protected.” 
Keffe D should have known. But what you wouldn’t understand about Keffe D is he’s a whole different level of narcissist. He’s so arrogant that he needs that attention. He needs to be [gruffly imitates Keffe] “Keffe D.” It’s very clear that both his obvious ignorance of the situation and his arrogance of it all came back to haunt him.

Did you get the sense when initially meeting him that he took pride in the infamy of being one of the people who killed Tupac?
Yeah, absolutely. Because from the [gang subculture], they handled their business. They recognized, “Listen, man, you jump one of ours, better believe we’re going to come back and get two of yours,” so to speak. So they prided themselves on the fact that Orlando’s beatdown didn’t go unanswered. Within the gang, they have a reputation. And where they get that small sense of notoriety is from that inner circle of that gang culture.

Did you watch any of the interviews he did?
Yeah. I was part of that BET Death Row Chronicles. Mario, the producer, and myself and another producer named Mike Dorsey were all sitting there when Keffe D’s saying these things on a recorded interview for that show. That was the beginning of it. And then of course, he came out and wrote a book. He had made comments like, “Man, fuck Kading. Kading went and wrote a book and told that story. That was my story to tell.” His arrogance is that he believes nobody had a right to tell that story unless it was from him. He then began to boast about it, to take credit for it all.

Is there anything else about this particular case that I didn’t ask that you think should be expressed in the piece?
I’ll tell you this, because I just saw some bullshit TMZ piece with Suge Knight. If there’s anybody in the world to blame for this taking 27 years to solve, it’s Suge Knight. He knew the moment it happened who did it. And all Suge had to do when Las Vegas [PD] asked him to come in and sit down for an interview, all he had to do was say, “They pulled up alongside, I looked right across the car, I saw Keffe D in the front seat.” That’s all he had to say: “I saw Keffe D.” That alone, that witness statement would’ve changed everything.

But he probably didn’t because that would’ve ruined his reputation.
That isn’t my point. My point isn’t about his reputation. My point is that Tupac Shakur’s murder went unsolved and if there were one person responsible for the delay, it was Suge Knight. There’s nobody else who could have helped more than him, and he didn’t, because evidently, his reputation was more important than Tupac’s life.

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