September 29. 2023
Today, an arrest was made in the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur. 60-year-old Duane Keith Davis, a.k.a. Keffe D, was charged with the rapper’s murder. According to the Las Vegas Police Department (LVPD), the grand jury indictment charges Davis with one count of murder with a deadly weapon that includes a gang enhancement.
During a press release, the LVPD recounted the facts of the murder and the subsequent investigation. On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur and others attended a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas where they saw Orlando Anderson, a member of the South Side Compton Crips. The two gang factions had an ongoing disagreement. Following the Tyson fight, Shakur and his entourage physically attacked Orlando Anderson in the hotel.
Immediately following, Shakur and his associates were en route to a post-fight party when the shooting occurred. It was during this time that LVPD officials indicate that Duane Davis devised the plan to retaliate against Shakur, gathering his gang in the white Cadillac, and providing the .40 caliber handgun to members in the back seat, including Orlando Anderson. When they
located Tupac Shakur seated in his car at the intersection of East Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, they unloaded a fury of bullets into the Shakur’s vehicle.
Tupac Shakur was transported to the hospital and died six days later.
In his memoir, Compton Street Legend, Davis admits to being present at the time of the murder, seated in the Cadillac when the shots rang out from the back seat, striking and killing Shakur. LVPD indicated that it was Davis’s admission to this and other pertinent facts through media outlets in 2018 that renewed their investigative initiatives.
According to the Associated Press, a search warrant was executed at Davis’s residence where a number of items of interest were taken as evidence, counting several electronic devices to include cellphones, computers, hard drives, .40 caliber cartridges, photographs, and a Vibe magazine featuring Tupac Shakur.
While the investigators and the DA Office would not comment on the specific evidence in the case, they did confirm that the recovered evidence corroborated statements from interviews conducted over the past 5 years. As a result, we can evaluate the information already provided and determine a probable direction the DA will take in proving their case at trial.
First and foremost, electronic devices will provide a plethora of evidence with respect to conversational content. Contrary to the popular belief that service providers maintain copies of all digital conversations, maintaining sufficient servers to retain such information is not practical. Therefore, investigators need to seek out the actual devices that generated or received the communication to obtain the full conversation.
Undoubtedly, computer forensic analysis has most likely been conducted on these devices and enabled detectives to piece together any conversations—leading up to and since Shakur’s murder—that would implicate Davis in aiding or abetting in the crime. Such information will prove to be crucial as attorneys seek to corroborate or disqualify accounts of information from the interviews. LVPD and the DA will need to have demonstrated what interview information was corroborated by forensic data analysis, and to what degree.
The mere presence of the Vibe magazine in Davis’s residence draws significant interest given that it was a known fact, according to LVPD officials, that Shakur and company clashed with the South Side Compton Crips, a gang led by Davis. It will be interesting to learn if Davis made any personal notes in the magazine as it pertained to Tupac Shakur and his demise.
Finally, the fact that .40 caliber cartridges were recovered from Davis’s house ensures that a ballistics analysis has been conducted with any original evidence from the shooting scene and may have yielded some significance. Through a ballistics analysis, criminalists could discern specific information to include if a weapon fired a cartridge or whether a cartridge—specifically in a semi-automatic weapon—has been cycled through a weapon without being fired.
When a cartridge is loaded into the chamber of a semi-automatic weapon, ‘toolmarks’ are generated from the casing scraping against the side of the breach as it loads. For each weapon these toolmarks—better known as striations—are unique in nature. Then, if the cartridge is not fired but the round is ejected from the chamber, ejector marks—which also generates striations—are made on the rim of the cartridge. Just as with the ‘toolmarks’ made from loading the round into the weapon’s chamber, striations are created on the ejector mark and are unique to each weapon.
In comparing the cartridge rounds recovered from Davis’s home to spent cartridge casing recovered that may have been recovered from the original crime scene, striations on the casing and ejector marks on the cartridge’s rim can be compared for similarities or differences.
A point to note in this type of analysis is that the striations generated on a weapon can change over time if the weapon is used frequently. As rounds are cycled through and shot from the weapon the metal-on-metal friction has a way of wearing down the metal and forming new patterns over time. The more the weapon is used, the more likely the striations will evolve into different patterned toolmarks.
It’s been 27 years since the murder of Tupac Shakur. Given this period of elapsed time, any evidence that comes forth in this investigation must be compelling to reach the standard of proof in court. If the LVPD was able to make a positive match in the ballistics evidence, establish a foundation of physical data evidence, and corroborate it with witness statements, their case would certainly prove to be compelling and very well may reach the standard of proof required!
Dr. Ken Lang is an associate professor of criminology/criminal justice at Milligan University, an expert witness, and frequently appears on the Law & Crime Trial Network.