Nipsey Hussle’s alleged killer finally has a date for his long-delayed murder trial. Eric R. Holder Jr., the man accused of gunning down the Victory Lap rapper and wounding two others in a brazen daylight ambush more than two years ago, is due to face a jury on January 5th, 2022, a Los Angeles County judge said Wednesday.
“He’s nervous, but he knows it’s time to get the case moving to trial,” Holder’s latest lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen, tells Rolling Stone exclusively.
Jansen says Holder was experiencing “a substantial mental health issue” and was “off his medication” the day of the shooting. He declined to elaborate on any prior mental health diagnosis.
The high-profile case was repeatedly delayed by the pandemic, the retirement of a judge and the elevation of Holder’s prior lawyer to a judgeship.
Prosecutors claim Holder, 31, fired at least 10 rounds into Hussle from a black semiautomatic handgun in one hand and a smaller silver revolver in the other, killing the 33-year-old posthumous Grammy winner outside his Marathon clothing store in the heart of South Los Angeles on March 31st, 2019.
“Mr. Holder was firing with two different handguns, trading (shots) between his right and his left hand,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney previously told a grand jury, according to a transcript obtained by Rolling Stone.
Once the volley of shots ended, Holder allegedly kicked Nipsey in the head and ran off, a police detective testified, citing surveillance video shown to the grand jurors.
After hearing evidence over three days in May 2019, the grand jury indicted Holder on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder for the bullets that struck bystanders Kerry Lathan and Shermi Villanueva, two counts of assault with a firearm, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. If convicted as charged, he faces a possible life sentence.
Prosecutors say Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, arrived at his Marathon store near the corner of W. Slauson Avenue and S. Crenshaw Boulevard “unannounced” the day of the shooting and was talking with friends when Holder appeared. Holder and Hussle, who knew each other, started a four-minute conversation that involved “Asghedom accusing Mr. Holder of snitching, which in the gang world is a very serious offense,” McKinney told the grand jury.
Witness Herman Douglas, who worked for Asghedom and was present for the conversation, testified that the rapper warned Holder to “watch your back.” Asghedom purportedly said there was some type of law enforcement “paperwork” suggesting Holder was cooperating with police, Douglas said. “Nipsey was basically looking out for him, telling him that, you know, ‘I haven’t read it, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you need to address it.’ That’s what Nipsey was doing,” Douglas told the grand jurors.
After the short conversation, Holder walked away, ate some chili cheese fries, and returned about six minutes later, according to testimony. “Obviously that conversation about snitching was enough that it moved Eric Holder to a point of wanting to return to the parking lot and kill Nipsey Hussle,” McKinney said. “As he approached, he was prepared to fire as many shots as necessary and shoot as many people as necessary to ensure that he killed Nipsey Hussle.”
The surveillance video showed people falling to the ground and bystanders fleeing for their lives. Holder allegedly fled the shooting with a woman who later turned herself in for questioning. She testified to grand jurors that she saw Holder with both guns and drove him away from the scene after he threatened to slap her while armed. Holder allegedly hid out in a motel and was arrested two days later in nearby Bellflower.
Asghedom, who won two posthumous Grammys for his songs “Racks in the Middle” and “Higher,” grew up in South Los Angeles and was known for investing back in the community. Before his death, he was on a clear upward trajectory. He’d been nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy for his acclaimed Victory Lap album and attended the February awards show with his partner Lauren London and daughter Emani.
In a December 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, he shared why the project meant so much to him: “There are life stories on there. You look at other albums that have been recognized in the past and you see the same quality. I know it’s my music, and I’m close to it, but I’m a fan of hip-hop, and I know what good rap music sounds like. It reminded me of moments I’ve had with classic rap albums.”