Ermias Joseph Asghedom aka Nipsey Hussle (left) and Eric Holder.
Prosecutor urges jury to convict accused killer of Nipsey Hussle
By TERRI VERMEULEN KEITH
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—A prosecutor urged jurors today to convict a man of murdering rapper Nipsey Hus- sle and wounding two others by opening fire with two guns outside the musician's South Los Angeles cloth- ing store, telling the panel the attack on the musician was "personal" and ended with a kick to his head.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told the downtown Los Angeles jury during his closing argument that Eric Ronald Holder Jr. was "already planning to kill Nipsey Hussle" when he began putting bullets in a black semi-automatic handgun after being driven away from the parking lot following a March 31, 2019, conversa- tion with the 33-year-old rapper, in which the topic of snitching allegedly came up.
"The approach he took was to stay out of their view until he was right back on them," the prosecutor said of the 32-year-old defend- ant's return minutes later to the parking lot near Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.
"When he walked up to the group, he said, 'You're through' to Nipsey Hussle. He didn't say, 'I'm not a snitch.' He didn't say, 'Why are you talking about me?...'"
The prosecutor told jurors that Hussle was a "successful artist from the same neighborhood as Eric Holder, who's an unsuccessful artist. I submit to you that the motive for killing Nipsey Hussle had little to do with the conversation they had ... There's pre-existing jealousy," McKinney said, prompting a quick objection from defense attorney Aaron Jansen.
"Saying 'You're through' before shooting him and shooting him a number of times ... kicking him in the head, that's personal ... What makes this murder first-degree is premeditation and deliberation."
McKinney told the panel that Hussle had joined a gang as a youngster, had changed over time and "wanted to change the neighborhood," but remained accessible without an entourage, security or fanfare while stand- ing outside his business when he was shot by somebody with whom he had shaken hands just minutes before on "just another beautiful Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles."
"These bullets traumatized a whole community," the prosecutor said. "Eric Holder did all of this to a neighbor- hood that he didn't live in for quite some time."
The defense is expected to give its closing argument later Thursday. In his opening statement, Holder's attorney conceded that his client "shot and killed" the rapper, but said the crime occurred in the "heat of passion."
Holder was "so enraged" about the rapper's accusation that he was a snitch that he returned nine minutes later "without thinking" and "acted without premeditation" in opening fire on him, Jansen told jurors.
Holder's attorney noted that his client is charged with murder, but said the charge should instead be volun- tary manslaughter—which is one of the options the jury can consider in connection with the killing of Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom.
Holder is also charged with two counts of attempted murder and assault with a firearm involving two other people, along with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. The charges include allegations that he personally and intentionally dis- charged a handgun and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury.
Jurors heard eight days of testimony during the trial, which was delayed for a day Tuesday following what Holder's attorney said was an attack in jail. Jansen told reporters outside court Wednesday that his client lost consciousness after being attacked Tuesday morning in a jail holding cell with other inmates while waiting to be taken to court. He subsequently underwent an MRI and required three staples to the back of his head, also suffering a swollen left eye and swelling on the left side of his face, according to Jansen.
Jurors were shown autopsy photos during the testimony of a medical examiner who said the Hussle suffered 11 gunshot wounds from his head to one of his feet. Dr. Lawrence Nguyen—who reviewed the results of the autopsy done by another medical examiner who is unavailable to testify—told jurors that he concluded the cause of the rapper's death was "multiple gunshot wounds."
"I believe the number of shots to be within the realm of 10 to 11," Nguyen told the downtown Los Angeles jury hearing the case. One of the rapper's wounds—caused by a bullet that entered through the rapper's right abdomen—severed his spinal cord and would likely have caused paralysis in the lower extremities if he had survived the shooting, the medical examiner testified.
During the defense's portion of the case, private investigator Robert Freeman told jurors that being called a snitch could put a gang member at risk of being beaten or killed. He noted that it would be more dangerous for an accusation about snitching to be made against someone in public where others could hear it and that something said by someone with a high status within a gang is "almost gold" on the streets.
Freeman, a former Los Angeles police officer, also told jurors that the firing of two guns—one in each hand that Holder allegedly wielded during the shooting—would lessen the accuracy of the shots. He noted that a two-handed grip on a gun is the best way to shoot with accuracy.
Holder was not called to testify in his own defense.
After Hussle's death, thousands of people were on hand in April 2019 for a service in his honor, with singer Stevie Wonder and rapper Snoop Dogg among those paying tribute to him.
In a letter that was read during the service, former President Barack Obama wrote, "While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw poten- tial. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going."
The rapper-entrepreneur was posthumously honored with two Grammy Awards in 2020 for best rap per- formance for "Racks in the Middle" and for best rap/sung performance for "Higher."
Drakeo, whose real name was Darrell Caldwell, was taken to a hospital in critical condition, Dec. 18, where he later died.
Drakeo stabbed at LA music fest
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Los Angeles rapper Drakeo the Ruler has died after being stabbed at a star-studded 12-hour concert at Banc of California Stadium at Exposition Park, according to multiple media reports Dec. 19.
Officials have not confirmed the victim's death or identity, but one of the rapper's representatives confirmed the information with Rolling Stone magazine and the Guardian, and colleagues were posting their shock and
condolences on social media.
The California Highway Patrol released the following statement Sunday:
"On Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, at approximately 8:36 PM, a fight broke out behind the main stage of the Once Upon A Time In LA music festival in Los Angeles. During the altercation, one man was severely injured by a suspect wielding an edged weapon. Officers from the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Depart- ment, and Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the scene. The victim was transported to a local area hospital. The case is currently under investigation by the CHP. Any witnesses with information about this incident are asked to contact Southern Division Investigative Services Unit at 323-644-9550.''
Drakeo, whose real name was Darrell Caldwell, was taken to a hospital in critical condition where he later died, according to multiple outlets including the Los Angeles Times, TMZ and the online publication Complex. He had just turned 28 on Dec. 1.
The Once Upon a Time in LA Music Festival, which was slated to run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, was shut down early by police and firefighters after the violence broke out, according to Officer G. Todd of the LAPD's Operations Center.
Artists including Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ice Cube, George Clinton, Al Green, the Isley Brothers and Cypress Hill were scheduled to perform. Video from the scene showed several people arguing and fighting outside the concert just before the stabbing, but it was unclear what sparked the confrontation.
"There was an altercation in the roadway backstage," a Live Nation spokesperson said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. "Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organizers (we) decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early."
The LAPD tweeted at 10:34 p.m. Saturday that "There has been an incident at the Once Upon A Time in LA festival at the Banc of California. The festival has concluded early."
Overnight, social media was filled with tributes to Caldwell, including one from fellow rapper Drake, who collaborated with him earlier this year on the song "Talk to Me."
"Nah man this s--- isn't right for real, wtf are we doing," Drake wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the
two together. "Always picked my spirit up with your energy. RIP Drakeo."
Snoop Dogg tweeted a statement about the incident Sunday morning.
"I'm saddened by the events that took place last night at the Once Upon a Time in LA festival. My condolences go out to the family and friends of Drakeo the Ruler," he wrote. "I'm not with anything negative and as one of the many performers, I was there to spread positive vibes only to my city of LA. Last night I was in my dress-ing room when I was informed about the incident and chose to immediately leave the festival grounds.
"My prayers go out to everyone affected by tragedy," the Long Beach rapper continued. "Please take care,
love one another and stay safe ya'll. I'm praying for peace in hip hop."
Journalist Jeff Weiss shared his thoughts on Twitter.
"RIP Drakeo, the greatest West Coast artist of a generation, a legend who invented a new rap language of slippery cadences, nervous rhythms, and psychedelic slang, who beat life twice only to suffer the most tragic fate conceiv- able," Weiss wrote, punctuated with a broken heart emoji. "The Ruler, once, always, and forever."
Caldwell was a Los Angeles native who has released 10 mixtapes since 2015 and put out his first studio album earlier this year titled, "I Am Mr. Mosely."
Critics have cited his unique flow and "oddly expressive, poetic word-choices." The Times called him "the
most original West Coast stylist in decades."
He recorded the mixtape "Thank You For Using GTL" at Men's Central Jail while awaiting trial in the 2016 killing of a 24-year-old man, according to The Times, which said he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder charges. Caldwell later pleaded to conspiracy charges in connection with the killing and was released in November 2020, the newspaper added.