The man who murdered Nipsey Hussle in a daylight ambush outside the beloved rapper’s clothing store in Los Angeles was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison, The Associated Press reports.
Eric Ronald Holder Jr., 33, appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, Feb. 22, and received his punishment after his conviction last July. Jurors found that he murdered the Grammy-winning rapper with premeditation following an initial conversation in a strip-mall parking lot on March 31, 2019.
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During the hearing, the court heard from one of Hussle’s friends, as well as a letter from Holder’s father. Holder was not eligible for the death penalty, and a life sentence was largely expected.
During the trial last summer, prosecutors argued that Holder Jr. left the scene of the initial conversation and ate some food, and drove around the block before he stalked back to the parking lot about 10 minutes later and opened fire with a black semiautomatic in one hand and a silver revolver in the other.
Public defender Aaron Jansen argued that Holder Jr. acted in the “heat of passion” because he believed Hussle had accused him of being a “snitch.”
The conviction for first-degree murder and personal use of a firearm meant Holder Jr. was facing up to 50 years to life in prison.
In his closing argument during Holder Jr.’s trial, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney called Hussle “a favorite son” of South Los Angeles who transcended the “pockets of concentrated poverty” and perils of gang life gripping his Hyde Park neighborhood to become an acclaimed recording artist, visionary entrepreneur, and noted philanthropist.
“The streets he used to run as a young man became the life material that he used to become a voice of those same streets. While some people get successful, they make money, they leave their neighborhood, they change their address, this man was different. He wanted to change the neighborhood. He invested in the neighborhood. He kept the same friends and the neighborhood loved him. They called him Neighborhood Nip,” McKinney said.
“He was a father, he was a son, he was a brother, he was a human being,” the prosecutor said, showing jurors a photo of Hussle crouching down to take a photo with a young child just moments before his death.
Shortly after the trial started June 15, Jansen conceded his client fired the 10 or 11 bullets that struck Hussle from the top of his head down to his feet, ripping through his liver and lungs and severing his spine. But the lawyer was adamant Holder Jr. acted in the heat of passion after Hussle allegedly mentioned he heard about some “paperwork” related to Holder. In gang parlance, “paperwork” means documentation showing someone is cooperating with law enforcement. Jansen said his client considered the allegation a “snitch jacket” that threatened his life.
Holder Jr., like Hussle, joined the Rollin’ 60s Neighborhood Crips as a teen, but by 2019, he had moved to Long Beach, started working at a restaurant, and put his gang membership “in the rearview mirror,” Jansen told jurors. When Holder Jr. happened upon Hussle the day of the shooting, it was a chance encounter, the lawyer said.
“Think about Eric’s state of mind at this point. ‘I just came over to say hello, haven’t been around for a while. I’m just waiting for [a food] order to be ready. I’m not involved in that lifestyle anymore. And the famous — the great — Nipsey Hussle is saying that they have paperwork on me,’” Jansen said, arguing that the “provocation” triggered “rage and powerful emotions” in his client that ran out of control. Jansen said his client, who was beaten up and slashed with a razor by fellow inmates amid the high-profile trial, was willing to “take responsibility for his actions” and admit to voluntary manslaughter.
McKinney, meanwhile, scoffed at the suggestion Hussle provoked his own slaying with the mention of “paperwork.” He said the people who witnessed the “paperwork” conversation — including Hussle’s close friend Herman “Cowboy” Douglas and Holder’s friend turned unwitting getaway driver, Bryannita Nicholson — described the parking lot exchange as short and civil, nothing that raised a specter of imminent danger.
“It wasn’t hostile. It didn’t look like a fight was about to happen. No one was agitated,” McKinney said in his closing.
According to McKinney, Holder Jr. “had plenty of time” to reflect and “cool down.” He said in the 10 minutes between the initial parking lot conversation and the shooting, Holder Jr. rode around the block in Nicholson’s car one and a half times, loaded bullets in the magazine of his semiautomatic, ate some chili cheese fries, donned a shirt, ordered Nicholson to wait for him in an alley, stalked back to the parking lot wielding two loaded guns, and unleashed his surprise attack. “There’s plenty of evidence of premeditation and deliberation,” McKinney argued. And either way, “a cold, calculated decision to kill can be reached quickly,” he said.
“I submit to you that the motive for killing Nipsey Hussle had little or nothing to do with the conversation they had; there’s already a pre-existing jealousy,” McKinney told the jury. “Here you have Nipsey Hussle, who is a successful artist from the same neighborhood, [and] Mr. Holder, who is an unsuccessful rap artist.”
Hussle was a mixtape veteran on a clear upward trajectory when his life was cut short at the age of 33. A month before he died, he attended the 2019 Grammys with his daughter Emani and girlfriend Lauren London in support of his debut studio album, Victory Lap, nominated for best rap album. A year later, he was awarded two posthumous Grammys for his performances of “Racks in the Middle,” and the uplifting track “Higher,” a collaboration with DJ Khaled and John Legend.
London, who welcomed a son with Hussle, told mourners at the rapper’s Staples Center memorial that she’d “never felt this type of pain before.” She then read a heartfelt text message that she’d sent to Hussle two months prior. “I want you to know I feel real joy in my heart when I’m around you,” the message read. “I feel safe around you … Protected. Like a shield over me when you’re around.”
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