Tupac Shakur died after a drive-by shooting on September 13, 1996. The world mourned for a complicated man who has been deemed one of the most influential figures in American rap. But in the 27 years since the artist died, his murder case has never been solved — despite any number of bizarre rumors that have done the rounds. However, a new development may have put us one step closer to finding the culprit.
A telling search warrant
News of this latest twist in Shakur's case naturally spawned headlines across the globe. But while the public was eager to learn more, the authorities remained frustratingly tight-lipped. “Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department can confirm a search warrant was served in Henderson, Nevada, on July 17, 2023, as part of the ongoing Tupac Shakur homicide investigation,” the police said in a statement.
The first new development in years
Fortunately, investigative reporters were able to discover a little more about what was going on. It turned out that the warrant was to search the home of Duane "Keffe D" Davis. And the interesting thing about that is that Davis' nephew was Orlando Anderson — a previous suspect in the killing of Shakur. Anderson had denied any involvement in the death in 1996 and was himself killed in a "gang shooting" in 1998.
Seizing essential documents
The search warrant stated that the cops were looking for "notes, writings, ledgers, and other handwritten or typed documents concerning television shows, documentaries, YouTube episodes, book manuscripts, and movies concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur." Police wanted things that "tend to show evidence of motive and/or identity of the perpetrator such as photographs and undeveloped film, insurance policies, and letters, address and telephone records, diaries, and other documents, whether such items are written, typed or stored on computer discs."
All eyez on them
Unsurprisingly, it’s a revelation that has garnered significant interest. Not only was Shakur — who, as you surely know, took the stage name 2Pac — one of the most famous hip-hop artists of his generation, but his fame and importance to the genre have also grown since. Shakur’s murder has been the subject of numerous documentaries, all of which have fueled the public’s thirst for information and insights relating to the nature of, and the reason for, the artist’s death.
An outsize legacy
Shakur was just 25 years old when he died. Despite his tender age, though, he left behind a critically acclaimed catalog of music that has stood the test of time. Only four studio albums were released by Shakur during his lifetime, but his prolific output in the studio meant that six further studio albums have been released following his death.
A man of the people
As well as a recording artist, Shakur was also an actor and appeared in a handful of films and TV series. But it was his music that made him one of the most seminal figures in the U.S. entertainment industry during the early 1990s. His songs about the travails of inner-city life for young Black Americans made him a champion of those he sang about and opened the eyes of the wider world to the realities of life in the perceived American ghettos.
Fight the power
In many ways, Shakur embodied the life he sang about. He was born into a poor family that had suffered — and indeed would suffer — more than its fair share of violence and grief. That’s probably why Shakur’s mother and father both belonged to the Black Panthers. In fact, a number of Shakur’s formative influences were people affiliated with the Black Liberation Army.
The “Panther 21” trial
Not long before Shakur’s birth, his mom, Afeni, spent over a year in jail while accused of numerous serious charges relating to an alleged planned bombing campaign against the police in New York City. That particular case became infamous as the “Panther 21” trial. She was found not guilty and released only a month before Shakur’s birth. So, Shakur was born into a highly politicized household and a socially conscious environment.
All in a name
Afeni originally named her son Lesane Parish Crooks, but she decided to rename her infant young son Tupac Amaru Shakur after he turned one. It was a highly symbolic title, as his mother later explained. “I wanted him to have the name of revolutionary, indigenous people in the world. I wanted him to know he was part of a world culture and not just from a neighborhood,” Afeni Shakur said, according to a 2014 article by University of California historian Chuck Walker.
An anti-establishment background
Lesane’s new name came from a famed Peruvian resistance fighter called Túpac Amaru II. He’d inspired the indigenous peoples of his country to rebel against Spanish colonialists. With the Shakur family’s Black Panther and Black Liberation Army connections, as well as his highly symbolic name, it was perhaps no surprise that the young man was destined for an anti-establishment existence.
A man of many talents
But at the same time, the young Shakur was also artistic and highly cultured. In Maryland, where the family moved when Shakur was in his teens, the future recording artist attended the Baltimore School of the Arts. It was there that Shakur took theater and poetry classes, even appearing in Shakespeare plays. “I love Shakespeare. He wrote some of the rawest stories, man. I mean look at Romeo and Juliet. That’s some serious ghetto s**t,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1995.
He took it all in
As well as Shakespeare, and theater in general, Shakur had wide tastes in music and also wrote poetry. After the family moved to the San Francisco area, Shakur frequented the classes of educator, poet, and entrepreneur Leila Steinberg, who became an important influence on the aspiring rapper. "Tupac was an amazing teacher for me, as one of the first artists I worked with, because he was so brilliant and he read so much," Steinberg told NPR in 2015. "He was all about learning strategies."
Growing up and making mistakes
Of course, this love of culture contrasted with some of Shakur’s other activities. By April 1993, Shakur had released two critically and commercially acclaimed studio albums — but then he began to get a serious police rap sheet. On April 5, 1993, he was charged with felonious assault and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. And in 1994 he served 15 days in jail after being found guilty of assaulting Allen Hughes, one of the directors of Menace II Society. But worse was to come.
In 1993 Shakur was indicted on charges that he and three others had sodomized a 20-year-old woman in New York. The resulting trial was long and well-publicized, but in December 1995 Shakur and his road manager, Charles Fuller, were convicted of first-degree sexual abuse for offensive touching without consent. They were acquitted of weapons and sodomy charges. Shakur was sentenced to up to four and a half years in prison. After the sentencing, he said, "I'm not apologizing for a crime," adding, "I hope in time [the victim]'ll come forth and tell the truth."
"I am not a gangster"
Shakur himself was adamant that he wasn’t a criminal and later defended himself passionately in that 1995 piece in the Los Angeles Times. The interview took place just days after he’d been released from prison after serving nine months of that potential four-and-a-half-year stint. “Let me say for the record, I am not a gangster and never have been,” the rapper said.
"I’m just a brother who fights back"
“I’m not the thief who grabs your purse. I’m not the guy who jacks your car. I’m not down with people who steal and hurt others,” he continued. “I’m just a brother who fights back. I’m not some violent closet psycho. I’ve got a job. I’m an artist.” He later stated that “the media doesn’t get who I am at all. Or maybe they just can’t accept it.”
A life of contradiction
Yet the rapper was shot five times in November 1994 by a robber in New York and also faced criminal charges on four other occasions. And eventually, Shakur died what could be called a gangster’s death — gunned down in a drive-by assault in Las Vegas in 1996. However, in spite of countless rumors, a lengthy police investigation, and a number of documentaries on the saga, the crime remains unsolved to this day. We now know that it is still an ongoing concern, though.
Tupac's final words
But more than two decades after the incident, one of the police officers who attended the scene of Shakur’s shooting provided more insight into what transpired that night in Las Vegas. Chris Carroll is a retired Las Vegas Metro Police Department Lieutenant — and the man who heard the rap superstar’s final words. He understandably had quite a story to tell.
“I had Tupac in my arms as he was dying”
“I had Tupac in my arms as he was dying,” Lieutenant Carroll revealed in a July 2018 interview with 3 News Las Vegas. True to his profession, Lieutenant Carroll had tried to get Shakur to identify the person or persons who’d shot him. That information would have solved the decades-long cold case right away. But Shakur’s answer was surprising, to say the least.
Details from the scene
In an earlier interview with Vegas Seven, retired officer Carroll recalled other details about that fateful evening on September 6, 1996. Carroll, he said, arrived on the scene just moments after the car Shakur was traveling in had been sprayed with bullets. As you can imagine, Carroll was greeted by a chaotic situation. “I grab the car door and I’m trying to open it, but I can’t get it open,” he said.
Dealing with the scene
Carroll explained that when he was finally able to get the door open, Shakur’s seemingly lifeless body tumbled out of the car “like he was leaning against the door.” The retired lieutenant recalled, “So I grabbed him with my left arm, and he falls into me, and I’ve still got my gun in the other hand.” It was almost immediately clear to the officer that this was someone out of the ordinary.
“This is Tupac Shakur”
“He’s covered with blood, and I immediately notice that the guy’s got a ton of gold on — a necklace and other jewelry — and all of the gold is covered in blood,” Carroll recalled. “That has always left an image in my mind... And as Suge [Knight] is yelling ‘Pac!’ I look down, and I realize that this is Tupac Shakur.” Former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight had been in the car with Shakur at the time of the shooting.
Carroll obviously thought Shakur was on the point of death and tried to get a dying declaration out of the wounded rapper. “And then I saw in his face, in his movements, all of a sudden, in the snap of a finger, he changed,” Carroll said. “And he went from struggling to speak, being noncooperative, to an ‘I’m at peace’ type of thing. Just like that… He went from fighting to ‘I can’t do it.’”
The usual suspects
Less than a year later, Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., was also shot and killed in a drive-by attack. As Carroll stated, it was an era in which rappers feared for their safety. And like Shakur, Wallace achieved notable posthumous success. Similarly, more than two decades later, people are still interested in the events surrounding Biggie’s death — and any part he allegedly played in the demise of Shakur.
People are still talking
The apparent rivalry between Shakur and Wallace has been the subject of numerous documentaries, including 2002’s Biggie and Tupac and 2017’s Who Shot Biggie & Tupac? The conspiracy theories swirling around the two rappers’ deaths have only increased their posthumous fame. This in turn partly explains why, to Carroll’s surprise, people still ask him about Shakur’s death all these years later.
Who shot Tupac?
Although the hype around the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the mid-1990s and the alleged feud between Shakur and Wallace has never really gone away, thanks in no small part to those documentaries, there’s another reason why interest in Shakur’s death has resurfaced. It relates to recent claims surrounding the identity of the shooter. Although Carroll claimed that the police have known all along.
A suspect in plain sight
“We’ve all known, law enforcement, people on the street, the gang community, everybody knows that Orlando Anderson’s the shooter in this case. We’ve known that for years,” Carroll revealed in the interview. So why was Anderson, a Crip gang member known as Baby Lane, never arrested for the murder of Shakur? We do know — as it was captured on camera — that Anderson and Shakur got into a fistfight on the very night of the murder.
A staggering claim
Anderson was questioned by the police, but, as we've mentioned, he was also murdered shortly afterward. Yet Anderson’s gang member uncle, Keefe D, has claimed that he was in the car with the shooter when Shakur was killed. This confession received plenty of attention after it was made on the 2018 USA Network show Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. He said Anderson was in the car, too, but he declined to name the shooter.
Not enough for an arrest
Keefe D’s statement understandably provoked a furious response from Shakur’s fan base. Many demanded that Keefe D be taken into custody over the confession. However, Carroll addressed these calls in his interview. “Someone is not guilty of murder merely because they are in the car, you need a little more than that,” said Carroll. “You have got to know what happened and what transpired inside of the car.”
This information is particularly interesting now considering the action taken by the Las Vegas police in July 2023. “The search warrant that we conducted is in connection with the Tupac Shakur case,” Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He concurred that “it has been a while” since the shooting, but he said, “It’s a case that’s gone unsolved and hopefully one day we can change that.”
Items were seized
There were no arrests made during the search, but police did seize several items that could prove pertinent to the case. According to the BBC, the authorities seized computer hard drives, tablets, laptops, a magazine that had an article about Shakur, and a copy of a book co-written by Keefe D. Interestingly, the home police searched was located no more than 20 miles from where Shakur was killed.
Warrant out for his arrest
“There were cruisers and Swat vehicles. They had lights shining on the house,” a neighbor told reporters after the search. Nobody knew whether Keefe D was in the house at the time and whether he was close by. There were other people at the house, but they have not been identified. But Las Vegas court records have revealed that there is a warrant out for Keefe D's because he failed to appear in court on a separate charge.
The next steps
This is obviously not the first time Keefe D has been suspected of being involved in the killing, though. According to CBS News, Keefe D told the Los Angeles police in 2009 that Orlando Anderson was the man who shot Shakur. And in 2019 a former LAPD detective told CBS News that Keefe D should be arrested because he is "boasting about it, and making money off of it and taunting law enforcement."
His dying declaration
But what of those final words? Could Shakur have uttered something that could implicate someone in his own killing? Well, not according to Carroll. “When he made that transition, he looked at me, and he’s looking right in my eyes. And that’s when I looked at him and said one more time, ‘Who shot you?’” Carroll described the time he spent with Shakur.
Fitting final words
“He looked at me and he took a breath to get the words out, and he opened his mouth, and I thought I was actually going to get some cooperation,” Carroll revealed. “And then the words came out: ‘**** you.’ After that, he started gurgling and slipping out of consciousness.” Surprising words, perhaps, but this was a man who’d grown up with a profound mistrust of the police as well as a deeply rebellious edge.
Carroll stated in the interview with Vegas Seven that there were a couple of explanations for why he hadn’t made this information public before. The first was simply because, as an active police officer, he couldn’t talk publicly about an active case. At least, not without being reprimanded. Having retired, Carroll’s circumstances are now different. “There’s clearly never going to be a court case on this,” Carroll stated.
Not a martyr
But there was another reason that Carroll had remained reluctant to talk about Shakur’s words for so long. Carroll, as a cop, also didn’t want Shakur to be celebrated for showing contempt to the police even in his dying moments. In that Vegas Seven interview, Carroll expressly stated that it wasn’t his wish for “Tupac to be a martyr or a hero because he told the cops ‘**** you.’”
Shakur has never really died, of course. Shakur’s place in the pantheon of legendary musical artists is secured, despite the fact he was only 25 when he died. As well as having sold in excess of 70 million units, Shakur is also an inductee of both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. He was among the very first to be admitted into the latter, although obviously all of this was achieved posthumously.
A lasting mystery
In 1995 Shakur’s hip-hop group Thug Life released their solitary studio album Thug Life: Volume 1. On that record, there’s a track about a fallen friend titled “How Long Will They Mourn Me?” In the song, Shakur asks, “I wish it would have been another, how long will they mourn me?” The answer to that is, almost 30 years after Shakur’s passing, still unresolved.