The closing arguments in the murder trial of Nipsey Hussle began in Los Angeles on Thursday as prosecutors claimed his killer came strapped with two loaded weapons and a plan to shoot the rapper dead.
The rapper was murdered when nemesis Eric Holder allegedly unloaded at least 13 shots from a semi-automatic weapon and a handgun in front of the Marathon clothing store in South Los Angeles in 2019, according to prosecutors.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said Holder deliberately killed Hussle and injured two other men — and insisted the slaying had nothing to do with a “snitching allegation.”
“He walked up to the group and said to Nipsey Hussle, ‘You’re through,’” McKinney said to jurors. “He didn’t say, ‘I’m not a snitch … Why are you talking about me?’
“I submit to you that the motive for killing Nipsey Hussle had little or nothing to do with the conversation they had. [Holder] already had a preexisting jealousy toward Nipsey Hussle.”
Holder’s murder trial began earlier this month, more than three years after he gunned down Hussle — whose real name is Ermias Joseph Asghedom — on March 31, 2019.
Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen said Holder shot Hussle in the heat of passion because the “Racks in the Middle” rapper accused his client of being a snitch.
Holder, 32, is facing multiple charges, including murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon.
McKinney said on Thursday that the attack on Hussle “was personal” and video footage showed Holder kicking Hussle while the rapper was on the ground bleeding and fighting for his life.
Hussle and his accused killer grew up in the same neighborhood and belonged to the same street gang — the Rollin 60s Crips. The similarities between the two men ended there as Hussle gained stardom for his music, while Holder struggled with his own rap career, McKinney told jurors.
“When people get successful, they make money, they leave their neighborhood … this man was different,” McKinney said to jurors as he put up a smiling picture of Hussle on a large television screen. “He wanted to change the neighborhood. He invested in the neighborhood — and the neighborhood loved him.”
Jansen admitted to jurors that his client shot Hussle but denied that it was premeditated. He said Hussle’s accusation that Holder was a snitch inflamed his client.
Jansen said Holder should have been charged with voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. The lawyer insisted his client did not intend to shoot the other two men — Kerry Lathan and Shermi Cervinta Villanueva — because he did not know them.
McKinney, however, said on Thursday that Holder planned the killing.
“The evidence showed he went over there, willing to kill everyone in that space,” McKinney said. “Nipsey was clearly the target but (Holder) was willing to kill everyone or chase them away.”
Lathan, 56, suffered major injuries from a shot to the back and is now wheelchair-bound in a convalescent home. Villanueva, Lathan’s nephew, was only grazed by a bullet. Both men testified during the trial.
The trial was continued on Tuesday after Holder was reportedly attacked by inmates after he was transported back to jail after he left court on Monday.
McKinney will continue his closing argument on Thursday and will be followed by the defense.