Nipsey Hussle Knew His Killer, Had a Personal Dispute With the Gang Member, Police Say

By (Pilar Melendez) (Tarpley Hitt)
Prince Williams/Getty

Police have arrested the 29-year-old man suspected of killing Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle outside his clothing store over the weekend, authorities announced Tuesday afternoon.

Eric Holder, an alleged gang member who knew the Los Angeles native, is accused of fatally shooting the 33-year-old rapper and injuring two of his friends in a tragic incident on Sunday afternoon that has garnered national attention.

Following mass protests, Los Angeles police issued an arrest warrant for Holder late Monday night. On Tuesday afternoon, Holder was captured in Bellflower, California—about 30 minutes away from the crime scene, police said in a statement that thanked the community for their “heightened awareness” and “vigilance.”

“We believe this to be a dispute between Mr. Hussle and Mr. Holder,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore said Tuesday. “It appears to be a personal matter between the two of them. I’ll leave it at that.”

Moore also confirmed police believe Holder is a “member of a street gang,” but declined to elaborate on which gang he belongs to, or how the pair knew each other.

Before his death, Hussle was open about his previous affiliation with an LA-area gang that is connected to the Crips. After distancing himself from the Rollin 60’s, Hussle became an ardent advocate against gang and gun violence in Los Angeles. He was supposed to attend an anti-gang violence meeting this week with city officials.

“I had a personal experience that was quite sad. Quite upsetting,” Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff told the crowd at the Tuesday press conference. “I went through my emails yesterday and I found the original email from Nipsey and Roc Nation requesting me to set up a meeting with the chief. Let me read it to you. This is dated Feb. 26: ‘Our goal is to work with the department, to help improve communication, relationships, and work towards changing the culture and dialogue between LAPD and the inner city. We want to hear about your new programs, your goals for the department, as well as how we can help stop gang violence and help you help kids.’”

The email captured the gut-punch of Hussle’s death—a loss, not only of a beloved figure in music, but of a community activist who was trying to put an end to the same social problems that later led to his murder.

“It takes time to set up meetings,” Soboroff continued. “We set it up for yesterday. The chief called me on Sunday, and told me that Nipsey Hussle had been assassinated and murdered. I was ready for the meeting. I was excited about the meeting. Here was someone coming in and saying ‘how can we help.’ Sunday morning, I took out my clothes for Monday—a ‘Save the children’ tie. It was all ready to go. Then I got the chief’s call...This horrible thing happened right before we were supposed to have this meeting. Why couldn’t we have had it before the day before?”

At around 3:20 p.m. Sunday, Holder allegedly walked up to the rapper and three other men as they stood outside Hussle’s South Los Angeles store, which is located in a strip mall, and “engaged in a conversation,” Moore said. Holder left briefly, then walked back to the group with a handgun and fired multiple shots, police said.

In newly emerged video surveillance of the incident obtained by CNN, four people can be seen scattering around the parking lot after a person dressed in dark clothing approaches the group. While it is not clear which of the four is the rapper, two people immediately fall to the ground while another tries to get back up before collapsing.

The gunman can then be seen fleeing the parking lot. Police allege Holder got into a getaway vehicle “driven by an unidentified female” who was waiting in a nearby alley.  

Two men, who have not been identified, were transported to a hospital and are in stable condition, police said. Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner determined on Monday afternoon that the 33-year-old rapper was shot in the head and torso, and officially ruled his death a homicide.

As news broke of the suspect’s name Monday evening, thousands had gathered outside Marathon Clothing Company in a spontaneous vigil for the late rapper. But when one attendee revealed he was carrying a handgun, another member of the crowd attempted to disarm him, sending dozens of people running, tripping and scrambling over one another.

At least 19 people were wounded in the stampede, including one stabbing victim. According to Chief Moore, two women later went to the hospital with bullet wounds which they said they had sustained at the vigil, although law enforcement on the scene say they did not hear gunfire.

“I’m not saying I don’t believe the women,” Moore told reporters, “But I’m lacking information that a shooting occurred.”

Hussle’s death came at a moment when Los Angeles, which had been experiencing it lowest shooting rate in decades, has seen a surge in gun-related violence. The week the rapper died, there had already been 26 shootings in Los Angeles, and 10 homicides.

Moore explained that in Jan. and Feb. 2019, the city of Los Angeles averaged about 13 shootings a week.

“It sounds high, but it was much lower than the past years substantially,” Moore said. “In March we saw that number double....What we’re seeing here is not just a shooting of one hip-hop artist...Nipsey Hussle represents the enormity of the lives we have lost to gun violence.”

At the conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Marqueece Harris Dawson, City Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Chairwoman of the LA Public Safety Committee Monica Rodriguez all delivered remarks on the late rapper.

“He is the son and grandson of South Los Angeles, who saw most of the devastation of the 1990s,” Councilman Dawson said. “As a young person who witnessed this, at some point in his life he realized he was going to be part of the solution, deciding and taking a firm stance that if South L.A. was ever to have what it deserves, that we had to own and build it for ourselves. He spent the last half dozen years trying to carry out that tradition while he built a successful music career.”

Garcetti described Hussle as “an artist who touched our city and the lives far beyond the City of Angels,” saying his death “has sent shockwaves across this city, and across the globe.”

When Soboroff concluded his remarks, he promised to carry out the rapper’s meeting, even if he couldn’t be there.

“The meeting will happen,” he said. “It will happen when Roc Nation and Nipsey’s family come together. From the upper level of this, to the bottom level of this, I will do what he wanted us to do. And so will all the people who have contacted me.”

—With video contribution by Brooke Howard.

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