By Jonathan Landrum Jr. | Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles district attorney told a jury Nipsey Hussle’s fatal shooting was premeditated by the man charged with killing the Grammy Award-winning rapper outside his clothing store three years ago.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said during his opening statement Wednesday that there’s “no doubt” Eric R. Holder knew in advance that he would kill Hussle. The prosecutor described the sequence of events, including a conversation about “snitching,” before Hussle’s shooting death in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where both men grew up and the rapper was helping revitalize. Two others were wounded in the shooting.
“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 attempted first-degree murder. The trial finally kicked off in a Los Angeles County courtroom after being pushed back mostly due to the pandemic.
Hussle, a hip-hop artist, father of two, and widely beloved South LA local born Ermias Ashgedom, was shot and killed at age 33 on March 31, 2019, in the parking lot outside his store, known as The Marathon.
McKinney said Holder and Hussle knew each other, growing up in the same neighborhood where they were members of the same gang, the Rollin’ 60s.
In his opening statement, McKinney showed jurors a video of the aftermath of the shooting with several people trying to resuscitate Hussle. The prosecutor also displayed several photos and another video that revealed different angles of Holder shooting Hussle and fleeing the scene, wearing a red shirt and bandana while carrying a semiautomatic gun and a revolver.
After a two-day manhunt, Holder was arrested, and two months later he was indicted by a grand jury.
McKinney said the shooting stemmed from Hussle hearing that Holder was a snitch and needed to “clear that up.” Before the shooting, he said the rapper and his two friends were having a “cool conversation” with Holder. He said Hussle visited the store without any security.
Attorney Aaron Jansen has a formidable task in defending Holder, who could get life in prison if convicted. Multiple eyewitnesses who knew both Holder and Hussle told police and grand jurors that Holder walked up to Hussle and gunned him down.
Jansen has said that the killing of Hussle was not premeditated, and the shooting of the other two men was not intended at all, making the first-degree murder and attempted murder charges excessive. He is also likely to make Holder’s mental health an issue.
McKinney said Holder used Bryannita Nicholson to drive him to the strip mall where the killing occurred. He said Nicholson unwittingly served as Holder’s getaway driver.
McKinney said Holder told Nicholson “Drive before I slap you,” following the shooting. Nicholson will be among the key witnesses at trial, along with the two wounded bystanders.
Holder and Nicholson had stopped to get food near The Marathon. That led to a chance meeting and brief conversation in which Hussle told Holder there were rumors that Holder had been talking to police about members of the Rollin’ 60s.
McKinney said that “moved Eric Holder to a point of wanting to return to the parking lot and kill Nipsey Hussle.”
Attorneys have spent nearly two weeks choosing a jury, and the trial is expected to last about two more weeks.
Hussle, whose nickname is a play on a famous 1970s comedian, was given the moniker for his work ethic as he slung CDs. He spent years winning a devoted following through mixtapes and underground releases, and broke through with a his first major-label album, earning a Grammy nomination just months before he was killed.
Hussle’s death reverberated around the world but it was especially felt in his hometown, where people filled the streets to mark his loss and where he was mourned at a memorial at the 20,000-seat arena then known as Staples Center. In the same building nearly a year later his memory was celebrated in a performance by DJ Khaled, Meek Mill John Legend and others at the Grammy Awards, on the same day another local hero, Kobe Bryant, was killed in a helicopter crash.
Hussle left behind his longtime 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.
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