Eric Holder Jr, the 33-year-old man who killed the acclaimed Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, was convicted of first-degree murder on Wednesday.
Holder fatally shot Hussle, whose legal name was Ermias Asghedom, outside the rapper’s beloved Marathon clothing store in south LA on 31 March 2019, and also injured two others. The death of the LA legend and entrepreneur sent shockwaves across the country and the music industry. His death was a devastating loss for his native Crenshaw district where he was dedicated to community development projects.
Holder was arrested two days after the shooting and charged with murder and attempted murder. Holder’s attorney, Aaron Jansen, admitted at the start of the trial last month that his client killed Hussle. The case hinged on questions about Holder’s state of mind before the killing and whether it was an act of premeditated murder or a crime of passion.
The jury also found that Holder was guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter for the shooting of two bystanders. Prosecutors had sought attempted murder charges, but Holder’s lawyer argued he had not intended to shoot the two others. Holder could face a sentence equivalent to life in prison, the LA Times reported.
Hussle and Holder were acquaintances who grew up in the same neighborhood and both had been affiliated with the local Rollin’ 60s gang. The afternoon of his killing, Hussle had shown up to the popular store he had opened in 2017 and was taking photos with fans and signing autographs.
Prosecutors said Holder was passing by in a car driven by Bryannita Nicholson, a woman he had been casually dating for a month. The two stopped by the store and Holder got out and had an approximately four-minute conversation with Hussle, LA prosecutor John McKinney told a grand jury.
Hussle told Holder that there was gossip in the community that Holder had been “snitching” and working with police, according to testimony from a former Rollin’ 60s member and longtime friend of Hussle who also worked at the Marathon store. Prosecutors have declined to say whether Holder was a police informant, the LA Times reported, but presented witnesses who argued that Hussle was trying to warn Holder about the rumors, which could have posed a threat to Holder.
Nicholson was a key witness for the prosecution and was granted immunity. She testified that she was working as a Lyft driver when she picked up Holder as a passenger a month prior and that the two had been regularly hanging out. Nicholson, who took a selfie with Hussle, said that after Holder and Hussle’s conversation ended, the two started driving away, but Holder asked to pull over to finish eating food he had ordered.
She said Holder then got out of the car with a gun, but that she didn’t see him shoot Hussle, did not know that he had killed the musician and that they drove off. When her car was on the news the next day, she turned herself in.
Holder’s lawyer argued he should be convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, alleging that he had become enraged by Hussle’s comments and “without thinking” returned to Hussle and shot him. The prosecutor said: “He clearly thought about what he was going to do before he did it.” In closing arguments, McKinney discussed Hussle’s reputation in the community: “He wanted to change the neighborhood. He kept the same friends. And the neighborhood loved him. They called him Neighborhood Nip.”
The trial was briefly delayed in the final week after Holder, according to his attorney, was slashed with a razor by two other people in jail on his way to court, forcing him to be hospitalized. When the defendant returned to court, he had visible staples in the back of his head.
Despite national attention on the trial, Hussle’s loved ones and supporters in Crenshaw were not attending hearings, and the LA Times reported that community members in his native neighborhood were more focused on carrying on his legacy.
Nipsey Hussle’s brother, Samiel Asghedom, who was on the scene minutes after his brother was shot, has been working on opening a new Marathon store in his brother’s honor. At Crenshaw and Slauson, the intersection now synonymous with Hussle’s name, Asghedom hopes to build a youth center, reopen the Steve’s Barber Shop as a place to give free haircuts to youth, and to have some kind of museum or public site that commemorates the rapper.
Hussle was nominated for a Grammy for his acclaimed album, Victory Lap, months before he was killed.