By James Queally
Los Angeles Times
Eric Holder Jr., the gang member who killed rapper Nipsey Hussle, was convicted of murder Wednesday in the 2019 slaying.
Hussle, a fast-rising rap artist and himself an avowed member of the Rollin 60s gang, was signing autographs for fans on March 31, 2019, outside a clothing store he owned in the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up when Holder Jr. approached. Holder Jr. departed after a brief conversation but returned several minutes later and shot Hussle 11 times. Two other men were also shot but survived.
Police arrested Holder Jr. in nearby Bellflower two days later, after the woman who served as his unwitting getaway driver turned herself in and identified him as the gunman.
Holder Jr. showed no reaction to the verdict. His guilt was not in question throughout his two-week trial, with multiple witnesses confirming he approached Hussle that day and his face captured by multiple security cameras. Instead of arguing for an acquittal, Holder’s attorney, Aaron Jansen, instead tried to persuade jurors they should convict his client of a lesser manslaughter charge instead of murder.
Jansen’s argument hinged on the words that Holder and Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, allegedly exchanged minutes before the shooting. Holder also belonged to the Rollin 60s and witnesses testified that Hussle had warned Holder there was “paperwork” on him — an implication there were court or police records showing Holder Jr. had cooperated with police on an investigation.
Jansen said that being accused of snitching by someone of Hussle’s stature, in front of other gang members in the heart of Rollin 60s territory, left his client so “triggered” that he wasn’t thinking clearly when he stormed back into the parking lot with two loaded handguns.
“This was not just a pleasant conversation between homies who are chopping it up … this was a serious accusation,” Jansen said during closing arguments. “Mr. Holder Jr. took it serious, as it was. He knows the consequences of being called a snitch in this manner.”
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney dismissed Jansen’s argument as “ridiculous” and other gang members took the stand to testify that Hussle’s comment alone would have hardly been enough to put Holder in danger. Herman Douglas, a close friend to Hussle and a Rollin 60s member who goes by the name Cowboy, said the comments were a friendly warning and that Holder overreacted.
After 2 days of deliberation, jurors sided with prosecutors, rejecting the idea that the killing had been an spur-of-the-moment act of passion. Along with the murder conviction, Holder was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault for the shooting of the two other men and could face a prison sentence that will amount to life behind bars.
In the trial’s last days, the courtroom in downtown Los Angeles was full as attorneys made their closing arguments, with members of the crowd nodding or smirking in response to McKinney’s argument for a murder conviction. The heightened interest in the case came after Holder was attacked by other inmates while in a holding cell . Holder, who was punched and cut with a razor, had to be treated at a hospital. Law enforcement officials have not offered a motive in the attack.
Members of Hussle’s family did not attend the trial or comment publicly about it. A victims’ rights attorney representing his relatives did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the verdict.
In the years leading up to his death, Hussle was ascending both as a rapper and entrepreneur who remained rooted in the Crenshaw neighborhood of his childhood.
After years handing out his own music CDs on the street and selling clothing, he’d broken through as a rapper with his 2013 mixtape “Crenshaw.” Hip-hop mogul Jay Z purchased 100 copies of the 21-track record, which Hussle was selling for $100 apiece. Hussle’s lone full-fledged album, “Victory Lap,” was nominated for a Grammy in the best rap album category in 2018.
He opened his Marathon Clothing store in 2017 and helped found a co-working space called Vector 90 one year later . His death led to an outpouring of sadness and anger among fans, who praised the musician for reinvesting in the neighborhood that had given rise to him.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times .