A 29-year-old man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand jury indictment charging him with the March 31 killing of Nipsey Hussle and the wounding of two other men in front of the rapper's clothing store in South Los Angeles.
The indictment charges Eric Ronald Holder Jr. with one count each of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts each of attempted murder and assault with a firearm, along with the allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm and caused great bodily injury and death.
The indictment -- which was handed up May 9 and remained under seal until Holder's arraignment -- includes two new assault charges involving the same victims named in the attempted murder counts.
At a court hearing May 10, a judge appointed the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office to represent Holder following the withdrawal of Chris Darden -- a former prosecutor best known for his work in the O.J. Simpson murder trial -- as his attorney.
Darden penned a lengthy Facebook post that day in which he discussed being the target of threats for taking the case.
"I only know that as a lawyer it is my duty to protect the rights of my clients even in the face of threats or angry mobs ... I cannot understand why in 2019 some people would deny a black man his 6th Amendment right to counsel of his choice. Or why defending such a man should invite threats not only against me but against my children too ... Just as they were in 1995 -- Cowards never change. These days these cowards don't send letters instead they sit anonymously behind keyboards threatening a man's mother and children. And some folks think that's funny. It isn't and I won't ever forget it."
Holder is accused of fatally shooting Nipsey -- whose real name is Ermias Joseph Asghedom -- at about 3:20 p.m. March 31 in front of The Marathon Clothing store the 33-year-old singer owned in the 3400 block of West Slauson Avenue in Hyde Park. Two other men also were wounded in the attack, though only one of them was hospitalized.
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Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Holder got into a personal dispute with Nipsey outside the store, then left and returned with a handgun. He was shot in the head and body and died at a hospital, according to police and the coroner's office. The police chief declined to discuss the nature of the disagreement between Holder and Nipsey but stressed the shooting appeared to be a result of that dispute, not any type of gang rivalry or feud.
"We believe this to be a dispute between Mr. Hussle and Mr. Holder," Moore said. "I'm not going to go into the conversations, but it appears to be a personal matter between the two of them."
Holder was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies about 1 p.m. April 2 in the 9000 block of Artesia Boulevard in Bellflower after a witness called authorities to report seeing a person believed to be Holder.
The aspiring rapper is being held in lieu of $6.53 million bail while awaiting a June 18 pretrial hearing. He could face a maximum of life in prison if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Hussle transformed himself from a South Los Angeles gang member to a rap musician and entrepreneur who channeled his success into efforts to help others stay out of gangs.
He bought shoes for students, re-paved basketball courts and provided jobs and shelter for the homeless. Hussle helped renovate a Mid-City roller rink and redeveloped the strip mall that housed his clothing shop, where he was fatally wounded.