After the recent arrest of a suspect in the 1996 killing of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas, Jada Pinkett Smith said she is hoping the criminal case will bring some clarity and finality to the mystery surrounding her friend’s death.
“Now I hope we can get some answers and have some closure,” Pinkett Smith wrote in her Instagram stories last week amid news of the arrest, according to multiple outlets. “R.I.P. Pac” (dove emoji).
Pinkett Smith, 52, and Shakur met as high school students at the Baltimore School for the Arts. They became friends and remained close after Shakur’s family moved to California while he was still in high school, and even as they each rose to success in the entertainment industry throughout the 1990s.
Since his death, Pinkett Smith has talked openly about their close bond and said they shared an “instant connection” upon meeting and became “pretty much inseparable,” she recalled in a 2018 episode of “Red Table Talk.”
Pinkett Smith has said despite their “strong feelings” for each other, they had kept things as just friends. Even so, the intimacy of their relationship had drawn the envy of Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith. In his 2022 memoir, “Will,” the Oscar winner recalled his earlier dating years with Pinkett Smith while she was close with the “Dear Mama” rapper and wrote, “I hated that I wasn’t what [Shakur] was in the world, and I suffered a raging jealousy: I wanted Jada to look at me like that.”
During an interview with MTV News in 2019, when Smith was asked whether it’s the media and fans who connect the two, or if she actually does think about Shakur, she admitted, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Tupac — I think about him every single day.”
After attending a boxing match at the MGM Grand, Shakur was ambushed and shot while stopped at a traffic light off the Las Vegas Strip in September 1996. He died six days later at the age of 25. Despite mounds of evidence and several witnesses and leads, authorities had for several decades failed to solve who had killed the rap and pop culture superstar, spawning wide-ranging speculation, conspiracy theories and lack of closure for family and friends.
However, on Friday, Las Vegas authorities arrested and charged Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, with Shakur’s murder. Davis has long acknowledged that he was in the car that pulled alongside Shakur. Authorities claim that Davis masterminded the killing as an act of revenge over an escalating gang feud.
During a 2015 interview with Howard Stern, Pinkett Smith said her friendship with Shakur had been strained and the pair weren’t on speaking terms at the time of his death. They had a falling out over Pinkett Smith being too “Hollywood,” while she criticized Pac’s “very destructive ... very scary direction” in his life and career.
“I don’t think I was guilty as much as I felt sadness for not having the opportunity to tell him that I loved him, but I know that he knew that,” Pinkett Smith said, adding that arguments and lapses in communication was “a constant” in their relationship. “It definitely taught me a lesson, which is, life is too short, do not let disagreement stand in between you and people that you love and care about.”
In recent years, Pinkett Smith has continued to keep memories of her late friend fresh, sharing in June 2021, on what would have been Shakur’s 50th birthday, a poem the “Keep Ya Head Up” performer had written and sent to her while he was jailed at Rikers Island after he was convicted of sexual abuse charges, one year before his death. And just last month, she shared a throwback video on Instagram of herself and Shakur dancing and lip-syncing to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s 1988 hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” (Smith was the Fresh Prince half of that rap duo.)
During the “Red Table Talk” episode, Pinkett Smith said she was aware of the speculation fans have about their relationship, and mused, “A lot of people talk about my relationship with Pac and trying to figure that out.”
She then recalled the moment she heard news of Shakur’s death during a trip to New York to see him.
“That was a huge loss in my life because he was one of those people that I expected to be here,” she said. “My upset is more anger ... because I feel that he left me. And I know that’s not true, and it’s a very selfish way to think about it, but I really did believe that he was going to be here for the long run.”
(L.A. Times staff writers Richard Winton and Christi Carras contributed to this report.)
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