- A jury in LA heard Thursday from multiple eyewitnesses to the death of rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019.
- Three witnesses seemed to get emotional when they told about the deadly shooting.
- “It still shakes me up. I dream about it every night,” said one man as he began to cry in the stands.
It was an emotional day in court on Thursday as several eyewitnesses to the death of rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019 fought back tears as they talked about the deadly shooting.
The murder trial began this week with the prosecution arguing that Defendant Eric R. Holder had premeditated the death of the Grammy-award-winning rapper after a brief conversation between the two men over “snitch” charges.
Holder, 32, is facing one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting that killed Hussle and injured two other men. If convicted, Holder could face life in prison.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney used his opening statement on Wednesday to describe the sequence of events leading up to Hussle’s death in March 2019 outside his South Los Angeles clothing store. McKinney told the jurors that prior to the shooting, the two men had a brief, casual conversation in which Hussle told Holder that there were rumors the latter was a “snitch” and that he needed to “clarify.”
Minutes later, Holder returned to the same parking lot with two guns and fired multiple shots at Hussle, prosecutors claimed. The rapper was hit 11 times, according to police, and two other men were also hit. Police arrested Holder two days later after a manhunt, and a grand jury indicted Holder two months after his arrest.
Jurors continued to testify Thursday from Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, a friend and associate of Hussle’s who was present at the shooting. Wearing an intoxicating jacket, Nipsey Hussle T-shirt and cowboy hat, Douglas answered questions from both McKinney and attorney Aaron Jansen about the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.
Douglas said he didn’t find anything out of the ordinary when Holder stopped in the passenger seat of a car minutes after his conversation with Hussle. But Douglas also told the court that he remembered Hussle muttering to himself, “I wonder how this is going to unfold” when he saw Holder approaching — testimony that Jansen scrutinized after pointing out that Douglas had failed to provide the details. in his grand jury testimony and under direct investigation by the prosecutor the day before.
Prosecutors said Hussle, née Ermias Asghedom, and Holder grew up in the same neighborhood and knew each other because they were members of the same gang, the Rollin’ 60s. But Douglas testified that at the time of his death, Hussle was no longer involved in gang activity and that the rapper, who hails from South LA, used his burgeoning fame to revive his hometown community.
Stoic and quick-witted through most of his testimonies, Douglas seemed to get emotional when McKinney asked if he felt guilty about Hussle’s death.
“I just regret stepping off his side,” Douglas said through tears. “I should never have left his side. I didn’t see this coming, no way, no way.”
The prosecution called two more witnesses Thursday morning who were at the strip mall at the time of the shooting: Christian Johnson, an electrician who was at a burger joint near Hussle’s clothing store at the time of the shooting, and Danae Wright, a mother who was in the parking lot after taking her kids to meet Hussle.
Johnson testified that he heard several gunshots while waiting for his food at a nearby Master Burger. Security footage played in the courtroom showed him taking cover as people fled the scene.
“It still shakes me up. I dream about it every night,” Johnson said as he began to cry. “I walked out and saw Nipsey lying there.”
As he narrated the scene, Johnson burst into tears and the judge gave a pause to allow him to calm himself.
Prosecutors played additional surveillance footage in court on Thursday, which showed Wright parking her car in the parking lot just before the shooting. Wright told the jury that she sat in her car with her kids in the back seat and watched Hussle take a photo with some of her friends.
Moments later, video showed the shooting unfold. Several bystanders started running across the parking lot and Wright jumped out of her car, ran away, then ran back to the vehicle amid the chaos.
Sounding suffocated, she testified that she tried to wake her children up in the back seat after hearing the shooting.
Shooting victim reluctantly testifies
The afternoon saw a very different kind of witness in Kerry Lathan, one of the other men injured in the shooting.
Acknowledging that he did not want to testify in the case, Lathan seemed to dodge questions from both attorneys and often said he could not recall parts of his previous grand jury testimony, citing an unrelated stroke that occurred after the trial. shooting that made it hard to organize his thoughts.
“I don’t know anything, I don’t see anything,” Lathan said at one point in response to McKinney’s persistent questions.
Lathan told the jury that his cousin drove him to Hussle’s store on the day of the shooting so that Lathan could thank the rapper for some clothes he gave him. The two men were talking outside the store when the shooting happened, Lathan testified.
As gunshots rang out, Lathan said he tried to run away, but it was only about two paces before he fell to the ground and was unable to move, having been shot in the middle of the back. Lathan said he didn’t see the gunman, who he said was coming from behind him, but he did remember witnessing gunfire amid the chaos. He told the jury that the bullet from that day is still in him.
Lathan’s slow testimony led to several lengthy sidebars between the judge and both lawyers. During one such break, Lathan and at least one juror seemed to fall asleep.
The jurors will return to court on Monday. The process is expected to take about two weeks.