The breakthrough in the investigation into Tupac Shakur's death, which came with the arrest of murder suspect Dwayne Keith Davis, has ended a case that has spawned countless conspiracy theories.
In the 27 years since the rapper was killed by four bullets fired at him in Las Vegas in September 1996, a slew of detectives, fans and self-appointed investigators have tried to find an answer to a question that has preoccupied the cultural world for nearly three decades. This is one of the most famous unsolved cases in the United States, and an incident that continued to occupy the media world for many years.
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Shakur's family, fans, colleagues and members of the black community in America have questioned the extent of the official police investigation's commitment to solving the case. This was in light of what seemed to be a tug of time, despite the media attention the murder received. And like any event of historical and cultural significance, Shakur's assassination also spawned quite a few conspiracies, with various proposals for solutions emerging and publicizing about it.
One of the most common is that the Las Vegas Police Department, which investigated the case, simply did not understand hip-hop culture, the forces operating in it and the relationship between them, and this impaired their ability to find the culprits. This was in light of a fight that took place just hours before the assassination in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel, where Shakur had visited to watch a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon. In the same incident, the rapper got into a physical altercation with a man later identified by California police as Orlando Anderson, a member of the rival gang with which Shakur was associating (and nephew of the new detainee, Davis).
The late Tupac got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Photo: EPA
Las Vegas police were aware of the incident but, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in 2015, did not investigate Anderson's identity or link the incident at the hotel to the assassination, which occurred that evening. "Investigators had no reason to believe the brawl had anything to do with the shooting," the Las Vegas Police Department's homicide chief said at the time.Law enforcement never questioned Anderson, who denied any involvement in the shooting and was also killed two years later after being fatally shot in similar circumstances (but not directly related to Tupac's death).
According to The Times, police did not question one of Shakur's entourage, who claimed he could pinpoint the assassins in an identification lineup. Even this witness has since passed away. In a statement accompanying Davis' arrest on Friday, investigators said he was the one who plotted the murder on the night of the casino brawl in response to Shakur and his friend Shug Knight, founder of Death Row Records, physically assaulting Anderson. Derrick Parker, a former NYPD officer, argued that the Los Angeles Police Department's lack of knowledge of hip-hop gang culture had significantly hampered the investigation.
He also said that a lack of trust in the police led witnesses to volunteer information they had. Aside from Anderson, two other people who were in the white Cadlick from which the shots were fired in the musician's direction have reportedly died in the years since.
Tupac memorial wall, photo: AFP
Another particularly popular narrative proposed in the wake of the murder was that Shakur was killed as part of the rap wars of the 90s, between the people of the East Coast (New York) and the West Coast (Los Angeles). The East Coast and West Coast Wars also claimed the blood of rapper Biggie Smalls, who was also killed in similar circumstances in Los Angeles, just six months after Shakur's death.
According to this theory, Smalls' assassination was in retaliation for Shakur's assassination, since it was Smalls who wanted Tupac's death. Some investigators accused Shug Knight, Tupac's best friend and the person who spent the night of his death with him, of ordering Smalls' assassination in retaliation. Knight denied any connection to the murder case, which also remains unsolved.
Tupac Shakur, Photo: AP
Of course, as with the deaths of icons such as Elvis Presley years earlier or Michael Jackson more than a decade later, Tupac's death caused many to insist that the murder was staged and that Shakur was not dead and in fact enjoys a life of anonymity to this day. Proponents of this theory have been quick to provide a plethora of "proof" over the years that Shakur is alive, existing and circulating among us — most of which include online videos of people spotted across the United States who bear a strong physical resemblance to the rapper.
Investigators who arrested Davis late last week insist he was the one who pulled the trigger on the night of the incident. Part of that claim is based on Davis' turning himself in, in a sense, in a memoir he published in 2018. He wrote: "The fact that they (Tupac and Nate) attacked my nephew (Anderson) gave us the absolute green light to do something. Tupac chose to play the wrong game."
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