It was in mid-July when Las Vegas reporters Rio Yamat and Ken Ritter began working their sources, after the police raided the home of the only living suspect in connection with an investigation into the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur. The result months later was a super scoop on a riveting story nearly three decades in the making.
Through their deep and extensive sourcing in law enforcement and criminal justice, Yamat and Ritter sought to penetrate a grand jury case shrouded in secrecy. For months, they regularly contacted everyone who was likely involved. It all paid off when they learned they should prepare for an indictment in mid-September. From there, it was a lesson in patience and persistence.
For seven weeks, Yamat or Ritter attended court hearings three days a week at which secret grand jury proceedings became public. At some point, other reporters started paying attention. Yamat and Ritter ramped up their check-ins with sources.
They assembled prep with four possible scenarios on how the news would break and teed up context and quotes from key players in the investigation’s long history. U.S. desk editor Anna Furman was the steady hand on Tupac watch.
After Yamat began hearing rumblings that an indictment was imminent, she and Ritter were able to nail down the next morning from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge that Duane “Keffe D” Davis had been taken into custody on suspicion of murder in Tupac’s killing.
They broke the news at 9:27 a.m. PDT. Within minutes, BBC called the Las Vegas bureau seeking an interview with them. They declined because they were busy reporting the story.
The alert published 93 minutes before the court convened for grand jury returns when the indictment would be made public. Media outlets had no choice but to credit the AP on news of the arrest.
AP photographer John Locher and video journalist Ty O’Neil, who were scheduled to cover the opening of the Sphere in Las Vegas later that day, provided key visuals from a police news conference of the arrest.
Furman, who had edited the prep, ultimately filed 27 write-thrus on the story, including two alert series. AP entertainment writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Las Vegas updated a “Things to Know” that accompanied the story. AP Entertainment video manager Ryan Pearson interviewed over Zoom a retired Los Angeles police detective who has written about the case and secured video of a previous interview with Davis.
AP reporters Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, and Gabe Stern and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, chipped in to read and review hundreds of pages of grand jury transcripts. AP entertainment writer Andrew Dalton did a compelling turn of the story in which the former Los Angeles police detective said Davis “has essentially talked himself right into jail.”
All the while, the digital team worked with what little imagery was available of Tupac in the archives to promote the package.
For dogged reporting and deep source work that allowed AP to dominate a story that’s mystified fans for decades, Yamat and Ritter are Best of the Week — First Winner.