LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The man accused of gunning down rapper Nipsey Hussle and injuring two other men in South Los Angeles was charged today with murder and other counts.
Eric Ronald Holder Jr., 29, pleaded not guilty to one count each of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with two counts of attempted murder. The charges include an allegation that Holder personally and intentionally discharged a handgun which caused great bodily injury and death to the rapper.
Defense attorney Chris Darden -- a former prosecutor famed for his work in the O.J. Simpson murder trial -- argued unsuccessfully to keep media cameras from filming his client during the arraignment hearing, saying he believed there was an ``issue of identity.''
But Deputy District Attorney John McKinney countered that Holder's image had already been widely disseminated in the media and that ``identity won't ultimately be an issue in this case.''
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan ordered Holder to be jailed in lieu of $5 million bail while awaiting his next court appearance May 10, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial.
Holder, an aspiring rapper, could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
He is accused of fatally shooting the 33-year-old rapper -- whose real name is Ermias Joseph Asghedom -- about 3:20 p.m. Sunday in front of The Marathon Clothing store the singer owned in the 3400 block of West Slauson Avenue in the Hyde Park area. Two other men were also wounded in the attack, although only one of them was hospitalized.
Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Holder got into some type of personal dispute with the rapper outside the store, then left and returned with a handgun. Hussle 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 Hussle 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 around 1 p.m. Tuesday in the 9000 block of Artesia Boulevard in Bellflower by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies after a witness called authorities to report seeing a person believed to be Holder.
Sheriff's deputies detained him outside a mental health facility, and Los Angeles police officers went to the sheriff's Lakewood station and confirmed the man was indeed Holder.
A witness told the website The Blast that Holder had called a mental health facility and claimed he needed ``help.''
Law enforcement sources told TMZ.com that the LAPD was keeping Holder in solitary confinement, with authorities refusing to let him mingle with the general inmate population for fear that he'll be attacked. The sources said he'll remain in solitary once he's transferred to L.A. County Jail.
Hussle's longtime girlfriend, actress Lauren London, broke her silence about the rapper's death Tuesday night, posting a message on Instagram along with a series of photos.
``I am completely lost,'' she wrote in the poem-formatted message. ``I've lost my best friend/My sanctuary/My protector/My soul.../I'm lost without you/We are lost without you babe/I have no words.''
London, known for her work on ``ATL'' and ``Entourage,'' had been with Hussle for about five years, and the couple had a 2-year-old son, Kross.
Holder has a criminal record that includes a 2009 arrest and charge of domestic battery against the mother of his child, The Blast reported. He pleaded down the battery charge by agreeing to complete an anger management treatment program and stay 100 yards away from the woman, according to the report.
He was also arrested in 2012 and charged with carrying a loaded gun. He made a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six months in Los Angeles County jail. According to court records, Holder was ordered not to ``own, use or possess any dangerous or deadly weapons, including firearms, knives or other concealable weapons,'' The Blast reported.
Hussle transformed himself from a South Los Angeles gang member to a rap musician and 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 Marathon Clothing shop where he was fatally wounded.
Earlier Thursday, community activist Najee Ali called for the arrest of the woman who allegedly drove Holder away from the scene. The woman who drove the getaway car spoke with LAPD detectives Tuesday and was allowed to go free, apparently saying she was unaware of Holder's alleged role in the slaying, law enforcement sources told the celebrity news website TMZ.com.