LAS VEGAS – A former gang member charged in the 1996 murder of hip-hop star Tupac Shakur pleaded not guilty on Thursday in a Las Vegas court.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, who police said was long suspected in the murder and began implicating himself in a series of public statements in recent years, responded “not guilty” when asked by Clark County district judge Tierra Jones if he wanted to enter a plea.
Davis was indicted in September by a Clark County grand jury and arrested in Las Vegas for Shakur’s drive-by shooting death, a long-unsolved crime that became a defining moment in the history of rap music.
Davis was charged with one count of murder with a deadly weapon for his alleged role in leading a group of men to kill Shakur in a drive-by shooting near the Las Vegas strip.
Shakur, widely regarded as one of rap music’s greatest artists, was also one of its most commercially successful, selling more than 75 million records worldwide.
Authorities said Davis orchestrated a plot to avenge the beating of his nephew, Orlando Anderson, inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena by Shakur and members of his entourage on the night of Sept 7, 1996, just hours before the shooting.
At a news conference after Davis’ arrest, police showed hotel security footage of several men kicking and punching a person they identified as Anderson near a bank of elevators before security personnel broke up the altercation.
That incident, police said, led to the retaliatory shooting death of Shakur.
After obtaining a gun from an unnamed associate, Davis, along with Anderson and two other men, Terrence Brown and Deandre Smith, got into a white Cadillac and rode off to find the black BMW that was carrying Shakur, police said.
When Davis and the others caught up to Shakur’s vehicle, shots were fired from the Cadillac into the passenger side of the BMW. Shakur, struck four times, died in hospital six days later at the age of 25.
Authorities have not said who actually fired the gun at Shakur. The three others in the Cadillac with Davis have all since died.
Shakur was best known for raw lyrics laced with violence, sex and profanity describing life in the ghetto. He was no stranger to trouble, having spent much of the last two and a half years of his life in and out of court, jail or hospitals. REUTERS