Who witnessed Tupac Shakur’s 1996 killing in Las Vegas? Here’s what we know

Oct 11, 2023, 9:17 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Duane “Keffe D” Davis is the last living suspect in one of hip-hop’s most enduring mysteries — the 1996 killing of rap icon Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas.

Davis, 60, is accused of orchestrating the drive-by shooting near the Las Vegas Strip that also wounded rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight. Davis was arrested and indicted Sept. 29 — more than two months after police raided his home outside Las Vegas. He remains jailed on a murder charge and is due back in court Oct. 19.

On the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur was in the passenger seat of a black BMW that Knight was driving when a white Cadillac pulled up on their right side and gunfire erupted. Knight was wounded but survived. Shakur died a week later at the age of 25.

Police and prosecutors say the shooting stemmed from a fierce competition for dominance in a musical genre that pitted East Coast members of a Bloods gang sect against West Coast members of a Crips sect that Davis has said he led in Compton, California.

That night, three others were with Davis in the Cadillac, but none of them faced charges in Shakur’s killing before they died.

Here’s what we know about who was in both vehicles from authorities, court records, grand jury testimony, interviews and Davis’ 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend.”

Tupac Shakur

Shakur is considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. He had a posthumous star this year on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is the subject of a Los Angeles museum exhibit, “Tupac Shakur. Wake Me When I’m Free.”

His death came as his fourth solo album, “All Eyez on Me,” remained on the charts, with some 5 million copies sold. He also used the stage names 2Pac and Makaveli. As an actor, he starred in several films.

Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in New York in 1971, and his name was changed a year later. His late mother Afeni Shakur, and late stepfather Mutulu Shakur, were active in the Black Panther Party in New York. Tupac Shakur was not close with his biological father, William “Billy” Garland.

Two of the rapper’s siblings, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur and Mopreme Shakur, have criticized authorities for inaction and slowness in charging anyone with their brother’s death before now.

Marion “Suge” Knight

Knight founded Death Row Records, a Los Angeles-based music label that represented Shakur at the time of his death. Knight’s moniker was shortened from “Sugar Bear,” his nickname growing up in Compton.

Knight and Shakur were headed to a nightclub when their car was shot at near the Las Vegas Strip. Knight was grazed by a bullet or shrapnel.

Now 58, Knight is serving a 28-year prison sentence in California for running over and killing a Compton businessman outside a burger stand in January 2015. The case capped the former rap music mogul’s downfall from his heyday as one of the biggest — and most feared — names in the music industry.

Davis said he and Knight knew each other growing up and even played on the same youth football team in Compton. Knight went on to play college football at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Briefly, during the 1987 NFL players’ strike, he was a replacement player for the Los Angeles Rams.

In his memoir, Davis describes Knight and himself as the “only living eyewitnesses to what truly happened.”

Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson

Law enforcement authorities long suspected that Anderson was the gunman. He was 22 at the time. Though Davis was his uncle and 12 years older, he described their relationship as that of brothers, friends and even father-son.

Shortly before the drive-by shooting, Anderson was beaten in a brawl at the MGM Grand casino involving Shakur and associates, including Knight. Authorities, authors and Davis himself say the shooting was an act of retaliation for beating up Anderson.

“Them jumping on my nephew gave us the ultimate green light to do something,” Davis writes in his book.

Davis said he obtained a handgun from an associate and tossed it into the back seat of the Cadillac but did not say who fired the fatal shots. Anderson was sitting in the backseat of the car, behind his uncle.

Neither the Cadillac nor the gun used in the shooting were recovered, according to retired Las Vegas police Detective Clifford Mogg, who was assigned to the investigation in early 2018.

“We were never able to identify the person who rented the car, where it was rented from, and then when it comes to the gun, we have never recovered as of this date, the weapon that was used in the murder,” Mogg said in testimony to the grand jury.

Anderson, who denied involvement in Shakur’s killing, died two years later in what police said was an unrelated shooting at a Compton car wash.

Deandrae “Freaky” Smith

Also known as “Big Dre,” Smith was in the back seat of the car that night, sitting next to Anderson.

Although authorities have said they believe Anderson pulled the trigger, the grand jury testimony challenged that theory.

Denvonta Lee, a former associate of Davis, told the grand jury that it was Smith who shot Shakur and Knight. He said Anderson tried reaching over Smith but didn’t have a “clear shot” out the left-rear passenger window.

The former associate, who wasn’t in the car but recounted a conversation he had with Smith days after the shooting, said Smith took the gun from Anderson, opened fire and let Anderson take credit for Shakur’s death.

Smith was 30 when he died in 2004 of natural causes, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Terry “Bubble Up” Brown

Brown was driving the Cadillac from which the shots were fired.

Davis said in his memoir that they were driving toward Las Vegas Boulevard that night but spotted Shakur “hanging out of the window” of the BMW and waving to fans. Davis told Brown to make a U-turn, and they drove slowly past the rapper’s convoy until Davis said they “found who we were seeking.”

Brown died in a 2015 shooting at a medical marijuana dispensary in Compton.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office said his full name was Terry Tyrone Brown, although Brown has been referred to as both “Terrence” and “Terrance” in investigative records. The coroner’s office declined to release more information, citing a security hold on the case.


Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed.

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Who witnessed Tupac Shakur’s 1996 killing in Las Vegas? Here’s what we know