THE ANGELS – Rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his clothing store in a calculated and premeditated manner by a man upset by an argument over sighs, a prosecutor told the jury on Monday at the start of a murder trial.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said during his opening statement Wednesday that “there is no doubt” Eric R. Holder knew in advance that he would kill Hussle. The prosecutor described the sequence of events, including the “snitching” talk, before Hussle’s shooting death three years ago in the South Los Angeles neighborhood, where both men grew up and the rapper was helping to revitalize. Two others were injured in the shooting.
In addition to shooting Hussle at least 10 times, Holder kicked the rapper in the head before fleeing, McKinney told a jury in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
“He clearly thought about what he was going to do before he did it,” McKinney told jurors about Holder’s intentions.
Holder, 32, faces one count of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree homicide.
Hussle, a hip-hop artist, father of two children and beloved in the south of Los Angeles, Ermias Asghedom, was shot dead at the age of 33 on March 31, 2019, in the parking lot outside his store, known like The Marathon.
McKinney said Holder and Hussle knew each other, growing up in the same neighborhood where they were members of the same band, the Rollin ’60s.
In his opening statement, McKinney showed the jury videos and photos of the shooting and its aftermath. The images showed the shooting and the Holder fleeing the scene, dressed in a red shirt and a bandana while carrying a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver. After a two-day hunt, Holder was arrested, and two months later was indicted by a grand jury.
McKinney said the shooting stemmed from Hussle hearing that Holder was a snooper and needed to “clarify.” Prior to the shooting, he said the rapper and his two friends were having a “great conversation” with Holder. He said Hussle visited the store without any security.
Attorney Aaron Jansen has a formidable job defending Holder, who could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Several eyewitnesses who knew both Holder and Hussle told police and grand jurors that Holder approached Hussle and shot him.
Jansen said Hussle’s murder was not premeditated and that the other two men were not intended to be shot, so the charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder were excessive. Holder’s mental health is also likely to be an issue.
On Wednesday, Jansen said Holder was active and did not have time to calm down before killing Hussle, saying this was a case of “heated passion.”
Former Herman “Cowboy” band member Douglas, who worked at The Marathon, said Hussle didn’t use the real word “snitch” while listening to the conversation. He thought Hussle was trying to give Holder some advice in a “quiet” exchange. He said Holder asked Hussle if he had heard his recent music, but that he felt no animosity between the two men.
“I was saying, ‘I heard some paperwork floating around,'” said Douglas, who recalled Hussle’s words to Holder. ” Hussle, saying he was like his “little brother.”
Douglas, 49, who wore a black jacket and a T-shirt with the image of Hussle on both, said Hussle added that “I didn’t see (the paperwork). You have to take care of that.”
Another key witness who is expected to testify is the woman McKnney said inadvertently served as Holder’s escape driver, Bryannita Nicholson.
Holder and Nicholson had stopped looking for food near the Marathon. That led to a casual encounter and a brief conversation between Holder and Hussle.
McKinney said he “moved Eric Holder to the point of wanting to go back to the parking lot and kill Nipsey Hussle.”
McKinney said Holder told Nicholson “Drive before he slaps you,” after the shooting.
Lawyers have been choosing a jury for almost two weeks, and the trial is expected to last about two more weeks.
Hussle, whose nickname is a play by a famous 70’s comedian, was nicknamed for his work ethic while hanging CDs. He spent years gaining devoted fans through mixtapes and underground releases, and broke his first major record label, winning a Grammy nomination a few months before he was assassinated.
His death reverberated around the world, but he felt especially in his hometown, where people filled the streets to mark his loss and where he was mourned at a monument at the 20,000-seat stadium then known as the Staples Center. In the same building almost a year later his memory was celebrated in a performance by DJ Khaled, Meek Mill John Legend and others at the Grammy Awards, the same day another local hero, Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash.
Hussle has left behind his usual partner, actor Lauren London, with whom he had a son who is now 5 years old. He also had a daughter who is now 13 years old.
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