How a chance reunion led to Nipsey Hussle’s death
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ermias Asghedom and Eric Holder both grew up in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, were both part of the gang known as the Rollin’ 60s, and were both aspiring rappers. Asghedom, who went by the name Nipsey Hussle, would go on to become a hip-hop star, neighborhood legend and local hero. Holder’s music never caught on. He went by the name Fly Mac, but everyone in his neighborhood knew him by his nickname, a profane moniker for excrement. On March 31, 2019, after Hussle calmly told Holder he was gaining a reputation as a “snitch,” the 29-year-old Holder shot and killed the 33-year-old Hussle, according to police, prosecutors and witnesses. Holder has pleaded not guilty.
On the first anniversary of his death, here is a chronological look at the events that led up to Hussle’s killing and events that followed, as revealed in court documents, other public records and events.
“OOH, THERE GOES NIPSEY HUSSLE”
Dec. 7, 2018
Hussle is nominated for a Grammy for best rap album for his major label debut, fittingly called “Victory Lap,” a mainstream coronation for a man who had been an underground sensation in the Los Angeles rap scene for a decade. He has less than four months to live.
March 31, 2019
1:30 p.m. — Holder calls a woman he has known for about a month to see if she wants to get together and get something to eat. She works as a home health caregiver and as a driver for a ride-hailing service, meeting Holder when he was a paying passenger. Authorities have not revealed her name. She picks up Holder in her white Chevrolet Cruze and they meander slowly in her car toward South Los Angeles.
2:51 p.m. — Hussle arrives unannounced at his clothing store, The Marathon, as he did three or four days a week, often after dropping off his 2-year-old son or his 10-year-old daughter. The store at the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson is the center of neighborhood life. It is also the center of Hussle’s plan to remake and revive the area where he grew up in an attempt to break the cycle of gang life that lured him in when he was younger. Hussle had recently bought the entire shopping center, where he once sold his mix CDs from the trunk of his car, planning to turn it into a mixed-use residential and commercial center. He spends nearly 30 minutes in the lot signing autographs, talking to old friends, taking selfies with fans, as he often did. He never makes it inside the store.
3:04 p.m. — Holder and the woman, driving mostly aimlessly looking for something to eat, pull into the shopping plaza at Crenshaw and Slauson at Holder’s behest. There is no evidence he intends to go there or knows Hussle will be there. As the woman is parking, she spots the rapper. “I was like, ‘Ooh, there goes Nipsey Hussle, he look fine,” she would later remember saying. “I want to take a picture.’” She doesn’t know Holder knows Hussle. Holder walks into a burger place in the complex, orders chili cheese fries, and steps outside to wait. Hussle spots Holder. “Is that Shi(asterisk)(asterisk)y?” he asks a friend.
“YOU NEED TO ADDRESS IT”
3:07 p.m. — Kerry Lathan, 56, and his nephew Shermi Villanueva arrive in the parking lot headed to The Marathon. Villanueva had told Lathan he needed a lot more new clothes since he had been wearing the same things in the months since he was released on parole from prison for a murder conviction. Hussle had sent Lathan a care package after his release, as he did for many ex-convicts from his neighborhood as they re-entered the outside world. Lathan had met Hussle once before and is pleased to see him.
3:09 p.m. — Holder, who is shirtless, showing the large tattoo that reads “SIXTIES” across his stomach, and the woman walk over to Hussle. The rapper tells Holder that word on the street is he has been “snitching,” according to the grand jury testimony of Hussle’s friend and employee Herman Douglas, who is standing next to him. Douglas hears Hussle tell Holder there are rumors he has been talking to authorities about the Rollin’ 60s gang, and that police documents or court records show it. “You need to address it,” Hussle says, according to Douglas. “You know, basically telling the guy you need to be careful, you know, because people got some paperwork on you,” Douglas testified, adding that Hussle was “more or less trying to look out for the dude.” Holder responds that those talking about him have only been “hating on me.” Holder asks if Nipsey or anyone around him had heard his new song, and all say no. The talk lasts about four minutes. All who hear it say no voices were raised, and no one seems heated, antagonistic or angry.
3:12 p.m. — Holder’s companion walks up and takes a picture with the rapper, who is very friendly. She immediately posts it on Facebook with the caption, “Look at me, I’m with Nipsey Hussle.” Holder goes back to the restaurant to pick up his order, the two pull out of the shopping center in her car, and Holder tells her to pull into an adjacent parking lot so he can eat. After taking a few bites of his fries, he stands up, takes out a 9 mm pistol, and loads it, she said. She later said she had often seen him with guns before, but had never seen him load one, according to court documents. Holder gets out of the car and tells her to wait. He heads back to the shopping center.
3:19 p.m. — Holder walks up to Hussle and says “You’re through,” according to one witness, then opens fire with the pistol and a revolver, shooting Hussle at least 10 times. One shot hits his head. Another lodges in his lung. Another severs his spine, the LA County coroner would find. “You got me,” a witness hears Hussle say as he falls to the ground. Holder kicks Hussle twice in the head and flees. Lathan and Villanueva, who had been standing next to Hussle, are both shot, but neither were critically injured.
3:20 p.m. — Holder returns to the car. “I asked him, ’what’s going on? What’s going on?” the woman later said. “He’s like, ‘Drive, drive, before I slap you.’” It’s the first time he’s ever been harsh with her. The woman had heard shots fired, but drives away with no understanding of what happened, she later said. “I just felt like I know there was a shooting going on,” she said. “I didn’t know if he was the shooter. I didn’t know if he was getting shot at.”
3:22 p.m. — Hussle’s brother, Samiel Asghedom, arrives. Hussle is still breathing, and Samiel, under instructions from a 911 operator gives him CPR. “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 later testified. “And he just kept — he just kept fighting.” An ambulance arrives and takes Hussle away. It is not until he is lifted on to a stretcher that those around him realize he has been shot in the head.
3:55 p.m — Hussle is declared dead at a hospital.
“I DIDN’T KNOW THIS BOY WAS GONNA DO THIS”
About 4 p.m. — The woman drops Holder off at his cousin’s house and returns to her mother’s home, where she lives. She soon sees rumors on social media that Hussle has been shot and killed. People are amazed she had taken a selfie with him moments before, “My heart had dropped,” she said.
About 8 p.m. — Holder calls the woman and asks her to pick him up. She brings him to her mother’s house to spend the night. She later struggles to explain why she lets him come over, and why she doesn’t bring up Hussle’s killing. “I didn’t want him to try to threaten me again or say anything to me about it,” she said.
April 1, 2019
About 8 a.m. — Holder tells the woman he didn’t want to go home because it was “dirty” and she helps him get a room at a nearby Motel 6.
8 p.m. — An impromptu memorial for Hussle that began the day before peaks with a crowd of hundreds at The Marathon store parking lot, lighting candles, playing Hussle’s music, singing and dancing. Hussle’s killing had come at a time of an uptick in violence in the neighborhood, and fear of a retaliatory shooting was heavy in the air when the crowd at one point hears gunfire and flees in a stampede that left 19 people injured. Two women had minor injuries from gunshots.
10:30 p.m. — After a long day of silence on the possibility of arrests or motive in the killing, Los Angeles police release the name and description of Holder, calling him a suspect, and giving a description and license plate number of the woman’s Chevy Cruze.
11 p.m. — The woman sees the description of her car on the evening news. “Oh my God,” she tells her mother. “My car is on here and everything, and I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know this boy was gonna do this.”
April 2, 2020
7 a.m. — The woman and her mother go to the local police station to turn herself in. The front desk officer says “don’t worry about it” and “don’t listen to the news,” court transcripts show. The LAPD later opened an internal investigation into why the woman was turned away at such a crucial time in the investigation and a detective in grand jury testimony said that the officer had missed a morning briefing. The woman leaves the station, returning later to speak to detectives after her mother called police again. She speaks to detectives for five hours. Police search her house, Holder’s house, and a relative’s house. They would not find the guns used in the shooting.
About 12:05 p.m. — A 911 call reports a man resembling Holder walking in the city of Bellflower, 17 miles southwest of the crime scene. He is arrested without incident.
April 4, 2020
Holder is charged with Hussle’s murder, and the attempted murder of Lathan and Villanueva. In his initial court appearance he is represented by Christopher Darden, made famous in his role as a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. Darden drops off the case days later and a public defender takes over.
“HE LEFT HIS HEART AND SOUL ON CRENSHAW AND SLAUSON”
April 11, 2020
10 a.m. — Nearly 20,000 people, with thousands more outside, mourn Hussle at a public memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles. A statement is read from Barack Obama saying Hussle left “a legacy worth celebrating.” The speakers include Hussle’s partner and the mother of his child, actress Lauren London, and Samiel Asghedom, who explains what the shopping center had meant to his little brother. “A lot of people thought coming up when he first got signed, he was gonna get some money and leave,” he says through tears. “They had no clue what he really was gonna do. I want everybody to know man, Nip put his heart and soul on Crenshaw and Slauson.”
1:30 p.m. — Hussle’s body is taken on a 25-mile funeral procession that lasts until dusk, the streets packed with thousands as it rolls through his former neighborhood.
April 12, 2019
Hussle is buried in a private family ceremony. The Los Angeles City Council votes to name the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson “Nipsey Hussle Square.”
May 9, 2019
A grand jury indicts Holder on one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The woman who drove him is granted immunity and becomes the key witness for the prosecution. Known in court and transcripts only as “Witness #1,” her name is kept secret because prosecutors say she has received death threats. Holder has pleaded not guilty and is now in jail awaiting trial. His lawyer has not given any indication of what his defense will be. His most recent hearing, to set a trial date, was postponed because of a court shutdown over coronavirus.
“THE MARATHON CONTINUES”
Jan. 26, 2020
Ten months after his death, and on the same day another local hero, Kobe Bryant, is killed, Hussle wins two posthumous Grammys at Staples Center, best rap performance for his song “Racks in the Middle,” and best rap/sung performance for “Higher,” a collaboration with DJ Khaled. The show includes a tribute performance to him by Khaled, Kirk Franklin, John Legend, Meek Mill Roddy Ricch and YG. As the performance ends, Khaled shouts a phrase that Hussle used in life that became a rallying cry for his legacy after his death: “The marathon continues!”
This story has been corrected to show that it was Hussle’s brother who appeared by his side minutes after his death.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.