Rival who shot dead rapper Nipsey Hussle jailed for 60 years for first-degree murder

Rapper Nipsey Hussle, pictured attending an NBA basketball game in California, in 2018  (AP)
Rapper Nipsey Hussle, pictured attending an NBA basketball game in California, in 2018 (AP)

A man has been sentenced to at least 60 years in prison for fatally shooting hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle.

Eric R. Holder Jr, 33, was in July found guilty of the 2019 first-degree murder of the 33-year-old Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist outside the clothing store Hussle founded - the Marathon - in the South Los Angeles neighbourhood where both men grew up.

On Wednesday, Holder was sentenced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke II, who heard during proceedings of the immense impact of Hussle’s death, and the lifetime of mental illness, abuse and struggle of the man who shot him.

“I am very mindful of what was presented as to Mr Holder’s mental health,” said the judge.

“I am also mindful of the devastation caused to the victims and their families. I believe this sentence balances the two.”

Eric Holder Jr, convicted last July of fatally shooting Nipsey Hussle (AP)
Eric Holder Jr, convicted last July of fatally shooting Nipsey Hussle (AP)

After the month-long trial, jurors in July also convicted Holder of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a firearm for gunfire that hit two other men at the scene who survived.

Mr Jacke sentenced Holder to 25 years to life for the murder, 25 more for a firearm sentencing enhancement and 10 for assault with a firearm.

He set several other sentencing additions and ordered that others run concurrent. He also gave Holder credit for the nearly four years he has served since the shooting.

Holder, dressed in orange jail attire, stared straight ahead throughout the proceedings and did not react when the sentence was read, and spoke only to tell the judge he understood the circumstances when he was asked.

In an impact statement before the sentence was handed down, Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, a close friend of Hussle who was standing with him when he was killed and who testified during the trial, told the judge that the killing was a tremendous loss both for him personally and for the South Los Angeles community where Hussle was a business leader, and an inspiration.

“Nipsey was my friend, he was like a son, he was like a dad,” Mr Douglas said. “Our community right now, we lost everything, everything we worked for. One man’s mistake, one man’s action, messed up a whole community.”

Mr Douglas said Hussle’s shop and surrounding businesses that he owned and supported have been closed down since his death, and it has meant that “the Homies don’t have nothing to do.”

Mr Douglas told the judge: “I don’t care what you give this guy. It ain’t about the time. I just want to know why. The world wants to know why. Why someone would do that?”

Actor Lauren London, who was Hussle’s partner and the mother of his two young children, did not attend any part of the trial, nor did any of his relatives, and none gave similar impact statements.

Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, and Holder had known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin’ 60s in South LA.

Both were aspiring rappers, but Holder never found the same success as Hussle, who would become a local hero and a national celebrity.

The evidence against Holder was so overwhelming — from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure — that his lawyer conceded during trial that he had shot Hussle.

But Holder’s lawyer Aaron Jansen argued to jurors that the heated circumstances of the shooting merited a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter.

The jury returned with the first-degree murder verdict after about six hours of deliberations.

A year after his death, Hussle was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included DJ Khaled and John Legend.