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Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Nipsey Hussle, known as “Neighborhood Nip”, has dedicated his life to building the streets of Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, where he grew up. It was on these streets that the rapper, whose full name is Ermias Asghedom, was killed on March 31, 2019.

Eric Holder Jr., an acquaintance of Hussle and an aspiring rapper from the same neighborhood, was arrested and charged with his murder.

Closing arguments in Holder’s trial began Thursday. Holder pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, and his attorney, Aaron Jansen, argued that if Holder had shot and killed Hussle, it was a crime of passion and not a premeditated act. If Holder is convicted, he faces life in prison.

“Mr. Holder has always been prepared to accept responsibility for the charge of voluntary manslaughter for the life he took,” Jansen told ABC News in a statement.

Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, who was the manager of Hussle’s Marathon Clothing store at the time, had known the rapper since he was a teenager and was one of the last people to speak with Hussle before he was shot and killed.

“It keeps repeating itself in my mind,” Douglas told “Nightline,” reflecting on Hussle’s death.

Rapper Nipsey Hussle talks to children after opening a basketball court on October 22, 2018 in Los Angeles. Hussle partnered with Puma to renovate the elementary school basketball court in South Los Angeles, near where Nipsey grew up.

Jerritt Clark/Getty Images, FILE

Hussle was an artist, entrepreneur and activist deeply dedicated to his community. He died aged 33 after being shot multiple times in the head and chest while standing outside his clothing store, Marathon Clothing, near the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, where he grew up. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.

He was the father of two children, daughter Emani and son Kross with his girlfriend, actress Lauren London.

The Marathon Closing flagship store is closed but remains a place of memory for the rapper. His family plans to open a new Marathon Clothing store to honor his memory.

Malik Spellman, a community organizer who knew Hussle, said he was going to meet with the rapper the day he died to discuss business investments and buying land when he learned of a neighborhood unrest.

“I thought it was a fire,” Spellman said.

But soon after, he realized that Hussle had been shot and saw paramedics working to resuscitate him.

“I looked through the fence and saw a little brother transitioning from Earth to the afterlife,” he said.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

A street mural of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle is pictured near his closed Marathon clothing store, June 30, 2022, in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello/AP

Los Angeles City Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson told “Nightline” that Nipsey was a “community giant.”

“It was impossible to live here and be active in the community without knowing who Nipsey was and being around him,” Harris-Dawson said.

Hussle was on the verge of becoming a superstar when he was killed. But activists say he never turned his back on his community.

He supported black-owned businesses and dedicated his life to building the streets of Crenshaw by buying businesses and investing in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence and poverty caused by decades of divestment.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Pedestrians walk past a street mural of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, June 30, 2022, in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles. Hussle’s many murals around Los Angeles bear witness to the late rapper’s lasting legacy.

Chris Pizzello/AP

Harris-Dawson is currently working on the completion of Destination Crenshaw – a 1.3 mile outdoor museum showcasing art and culture to revitalize and recognize Black Los Angeles.

It was a project close to Hussle’s heart and inspired by his vision – to make Crenshaw a destination, Harris-Dawson said.

Ever since he was a teenager, Hussle had spoken about the importance of redeeming the block and having an influence on the development of his community.

“I’ve seen several businesses open and fans tell me how much he inspired them to go to school,” Douglas said.

“For me, watching those who could really make a difference die. That’s what hurts,” he added.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, business partner of Nipsey Hussle, stands behind police crime scene tape to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial for Hussle outside their clothing store, April 2, 2019, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

Douglas, who testified as a witness at the trial, said he did so because setting the record straight was important to him. Several subpoenaed witnesses did not appear in court.

Prosecutors argued that Holder planned to shoot and kill the rapper after the two men verbally clashed over allegations that Holder was a “snitch”.

“There are a whole range of consequences for people who report, but no gang member wants to be considered a whistleblower. This is very offensive to any gang member,” Assistant District Attorney John McKinney said during the trial.

Both Hussle and Holder belonged to the same gang, the Crips’ Rollin 60s, but in the last years of his life Hussle had worked to stop violence and broker peace between rival gangs.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Community organizer La Tanya Ward speaks with ABC’s “Nightline” about the legacy of Nipsey Hussle and its impact on South Los Angeles, June 2022.

ABC News

LaTanya Ward, a community organizer, is from the nearby village of Baldwin, known as The Jungles, which is just a five-minute drive from Slauson and Crenshaw.

Ward, who was affiliated with the Black P Stones Blood gang, said Hussle’s tragic death was felt by members of the Bloods and Crips and for her, the common grief was an opportunity to bring them together.

“I went to my Instagram and saw that the Bloods and Crips that I follow were all so sad,” she told ‘Nightline.’ “So I just felt like it was a good opportunity to basically play on that.”

Ward organized a peace march in Crenshaw in 2020 and said gang members from all over Los Angeles attended.

“It was just unreal,” she said.

“It was the first time I saw in a hood a lot of people didn’t get along, but for Nip, we all came together,” Douglas said.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Rapper Nipsey Hussle performs onstage at RFK Stadium, April 28, 2018, in Washington, DC

Brian Stukes/Getty Images

Murals of the rapper have been popping up in cities across the country after his death. Former President Barack Obama penned a heartfelt letter that was shared at Hussle’s memorial service and his musical talents were recognized with two posthumous Grammy Awards.

“I was like, ‘They killed Nipsey, but they can’t kill the idea,'” Spellman said.

Crenshaw celebrates Nipsey Hussle’s legacy as his killer’s trial draws to a close

Mourners and supporters take photos as they gather in front of a growing memorial outside the Marathon clothing store, April 1, 2019, in Los Angeles, where rapper Nipsey Hussle was killed and two others injured in front of his store the day before.

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

For Ward, who now leads healing circles for ex-gang members, it means continuing his peace work.

“People’s energy is stronger in death,” she said. “It just started a fire under me.”

“[Nipsey Hussle] did his part,” she added. “And I think people should take note of that.”

ABC News’ Jessica Hopper contributed to this report.

ABC News

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