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After more than three years, the trial for the man accused of shooting Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle has begun.
Jury selection in the trial of Eric Holder, 32, on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon in the killing began on Thursday and is expected to continue on Monday in Los Angeles, according to local ABC affiliate KABC. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Holder has been in custody since April 2019 in lieu of $6.53 million bail, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department records reviewed by Oxygen.com. He has pleaded not guilty.
Hussle, whose given name was Ermias Asghedom, was killed at the age of 33 on March 31, 2019 in the parking lot outside his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing.
According to witnesses, a man ran up to Hussle, who was signing autographs and taking selfies with fans, at around 3:20 p.m. and shot him multiple times with two different handguns. The man then kicked Hussle in the head after he fell to the ground.
Hussle was rushed to the hospital but died of his wounds. A coroner told the grand jury that indicted Holder that Hussle sustained at least 10 gunshot wounds, including rounds that entered his lungs, severed his spinal cord, and ones that injured his scalp and foot, according to the Los Angeles Times and local NBC affiliate KNBC. Police recovered eight bullet casings at the scene and doctors removed six from Hussle's body.
Holder was arrested on April 2, after the woman who had been driving him that day came forward to police, according to her grand jury testimony.
The woman, who was identified on social media after pictures of her car's license plate went viral, was listed in the grand jury as "Witness 1" after police verified that there were legitimate threats to her life because of her alleged role in the crime. She was granted immunity for her testimony and offered police protection.
She told the grand jury that she and Holder started dating in February 2019, and they saw Hussle on the day of his murder while they were out for a late Sunday lunch, according to the Times. She pulled over after spotting the rapper, and saw Holder approach Hussle and his entourage.
One of the members of Hussle's entourage, Herman Douglas, testified before the grand jury that the two men — who were allegedly both members of the Rolling 60s Crips, according to the Times — greeted each other and that Hussle tried to warn Holder.
“Man, you know, they got some paperwork on you,” Douglas testified that Hussle told Holder. “Like you need to maybe take care of that.”
Douglas testified that Hussle was telling Holder the rumor was that he had talked to the police about a crime, and he needed to get ahead of that. Douglas did not know what Holder had allegedly snitched about.
It was at this point that the woman dating Holder approached to get a selfie with the rapper, and testified that she heard Holder ask Hussle, "Cuz, have you ever snitched?"
The woman got her selfie with Hussle as Holder returned to her car, and the two drove away to find somewhere to park to eat their lunches. That's when, she testified, she saw Holder loading his gun.
"You’re not gonna do a drive-by in my car," she testified she told him, according to the Times, and he put the gun away.
They parked around the block to eat their meal, at which point she testified that Holder took his guns, got out of the car and told her to wait.
It was only six minutes, prosecutors say, between when the woman and Holder left the parking lot and Holder returned to shoot Hussle.
One of the other men that Holder alleged shot that day, Kerry Lathan, testified that Holder walked up to Hussle with his guns out and said, "You're through."
After being shot, Hussle reportedly said to his killer, "You got me," according to the grand jury. Holder then allegedly kicked him in the head.
Douglas, who had gone inside the store to eat his own lunch after witnessing the conversation, testified that he came out after hearing the gunfire and saw Hussle on the ground and Holder running away.
“He was still breathing, you know, like biting his tongue a little bit, then he — he was just trying to fight it, trying to gain consciousness, and he was going out," Douglas testified about the rapper's last moments. "And he just kept — he just kept fighting."
The woman who was dating Holder testified he returned to the car angry and, when she asked him what happened, he told her to drive away or he'd slap her. She added that he had her drop him at a cousin's house, but then called and asked to stay at her place on Sunday night. On Monday, she testified, he called to ask her to help him get a motel room and she did.
By the time she met him at the motel, she said, she'd seen social media posts identifying him as the shooter but, when she asked him, he asked her to fetch him cigarettes and a take-out meal.
When she went back home, she saw that her car and her license plate has been connected to the shooting on the local news. The LAPD issued a statement identifying her car and Holder shortly after 10:15 p.m. PT on April 1.
She and her mother went to the police the following morning, but were turned away.
"Don’t listen to the news," she testified that the desk sergeant told her before asking her to leave.
She called the police back later that morning and they had her return to the station for a five-hour interview. Holder's arrest was announced around 2:30 p.m. PT on April 2.
Hussle's death resulted in both an outpouring of grief and widespread acknowledgement of the rapper's efforts to uplift the Los Angeles community from which he'd come. His death inspired an unprecedented 2019 summit between Bloods and Crips factions, according to the L.A. Times, that resulted in a temporary ceasefire and continuing open lines of communication that activists say has reduced violence in their community. The Times also reports that Hussle's death and the widespread knowledge of his efforts to invest in the neighborhood inspired other Black celebrities to do the same.
Hussle was survived by his girlfriend, Lauren London, their son and a daughter from a previous relationship.
Holder is represented at trial by a public defender, who has argued in previous court hearings that he has mental health problems and had stopped taking his medication after the death of his mother — which was shortly before the shooting — according to People.
Both the prosecution and the defense agree that the jury will have to decide, if they rule that Holder shot Hussle, whether the six minutes between when the two reportedly parted ways amicably and Holder allegedly returned and shot Hussle constitutes premeditation and thus first-degree murder, according to People and the Times.
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