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What to make of new developments in the investigation into Tupac Shakur's murder

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We're going to take a look now at what was a 30-year-old cold case. It's the 1996 shooting death of Tupac Shakur. The rapper was 25 years old when he was shot while riding home from a boxing match at the MGM Grand. While stopped at a red light, a white Cadillac pulled up next to Shakur's car and opened fire. The case is still unsolved, but Las Vegas police executed a search warrant last week on a home in Henderson, Nev., that has lots of people wondering if there's new life in the investigation.

Joel Anderson is a staff writer at Slate and host of Season 3 of the podcast "Slow Burn," all about the murders of Shakur and later, the Notorious B.I.G. Hello and welcome to the program.

JOEL ANDERSON: Hey, Ayesha, thanks for having me on.

RASCOE: According to the Associated Press, public records link the home where the search warrant was executed to the wife of Duane "Keefe D" Davis, the uncle of Orlando Anderson. Can you give us some context for who these people are?

ANDERSON: OK, so we can start with Keefe D, otherwise known by his government name, Duane Keith Davis. He was a big-time drug dealer in South Central LA and the Compton area, and he was one of the, you know, OG South Side Crips from that time. He was the uncle of Orlando Anderson, another South Side Crip, who is the man who got into a fight with Tupac in a Vegas casino after a Mike Tyson fight. It wasn't long after that fight that they had in the casino that Tupac is shot to death.

RASCOE: There is a very famous video of Tupac and his entourage getting into it with Orlando Anderson at the MGM. That fight has been seen and known for a very long time, right?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Yeah. And if you think about it in the moment, it's sort of remarkable. Tupac was not a gangster.

RASCOE: Yeah.

ANDERSON: But he injected himself into a gang fight that night, which is how things seem to have went pretty deadly pretty quickly.

RASCOE: So in 2018, Davis, the uncle of Orlando Anderson, gave an interview for a BET show where he admitted to being in the front seat of the Cadillac that pulled up next to Shakur's car and said his nephew, Orlando Anderson, was one of the people in the backseat where the shots were fired from. Now, Anderson died in 1998. So what do you make of his uncle's comments to BET? I mean, we have to be careful here, but it sounds like he's walking up to the line of saying, yeah, we was there, and we did it, or, I know who did it, right?

ANDERSON: Oh, it'd be fair in this instance to call Keefe D a habitual line-stepper. Like, I mean, not only...

RASCOE: OK, OK.

ANDERSON: ...Has he crept up to the line, but he's crossed over it a number of times. I mean, he's written his own book, "Compton Street Legend," in which he said that he and his nephew were in the car. He's given interviews, many of them on YouTube. That's what he's been doing for the last 27 years. And it seems like maybe it's caught up with him.

RASCOE: Why do you think it's taken so long for the police to even make some type of advance in this case?

ANDERSON: Well, I mean, I think there's a couple of things. One is that, you know, I mean, without being too explicit about it, this is a young Black man, right? And so Vegas didn't have a lot of incentive to look into the case, for one, because that really could have affected a trial. Let's say a murder trial happens about Tupac in the wake of that. I mean, think about how that might have affected the tourism industry in Las Vegas, something that they've sort of tried to struggle with for years about, hey, we want to make this a safe place.

But also the other thing is that most of the people - the person that's directly responsible for Tupac's death, is dead - more than likely, allegedly - Orlando Anderson. And everybody else in that car except for Keefe D on that night - they're dead, too. So the police really had no incentive to make a case here because there's nobody to throw in prison, really. But maybe they're going to try something else. I don't know.

But, you know, there's just - there hasn't been a lot of incentive. And everybody sort of - anybody who hasn't fallen victim to conspiracy theories has always sort of known that Keefe D and Orlando Anderson were involved in Tupac's death in one way or another.

RASCOE: And I mean, Shakur obviously had a lot of issues with the police, was very critical of the police in his lyrics and in life. What do you make of this renewed interest in the criminal case, and what that might say or mean for Tupac's legacy?

ANDERSON: Well, I mean, I think there's a couple things here. There's a lot of renewed interest in it in part because this is the 50th anniversary of the founding of hip-hop. And there was this recent "Dear Mama" documentary about him and his mother, Afeni Shakur. He also was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And just to be frank, no matter how long it's been since Tupac is dead, he's still going to be one of the more famous Black celebrities that there's ever been, right? And so there's always going to be a lot of interest in the circumstances of his death.

And I would also say for a detective in any police department, it really doesn't cost you much to look into this case, right? The upside is that you piece together the case or the investigation that finally puts a name to the murder of Tupac. What a big deal. If you don't, we're right back where we are right now.

And I should say, four years ago when we were working on that season of the "Slow Burn" podcast, we called the Las Vegas police for more information. And they said they couldn't comment because this was still an active and ongoing investigation. And I was like, what? What are you guys talking about? You know, what does that mean? I thought they were just trying to deflect and drive me away from asking more questions, but obviously they were telling the truth in that instance.

RASCOE: That's Slate's Joel Anderson. He hosted Season 3 of the podcast "Slow Burn." Thank you so much for joining us.

ANDERSON: Oh, my pleasure. Any time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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