LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Thousands of fans are expected to descend on Staples Center today to honor the life of slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down in front of the clothing store he owned in a South Los Angeles community he was dedicated to revitalizing.
The ceremony will be the first of its kind at Staples Center since a memorial service for Michael Jackson was held there in 2009.
The program for the Nipsey Hussle memorial remains a mystery, but security is expected to be tight in and around the arena. Free tickets for the event were distributed through an online system, and the tickets were all claimed in less than an hour.
People attending the event will be subject to search and metal- detector screening. Backpacks will be prohibited, along with any bags larger than 14-by-14-by-6 inches. Cameras and recording devices are also banned, and violators may be escorted out of the arena.
Tickets were limited to four per household, and all people in groups must enter the venue together -- an effort to prevent transferring of tickets. Doors to the arena will open at 8 a.m. in advance of the 10 a.m. ceremony.
Organizers said people without tickets should not come to Staples Center or the surrounding L.A. Live area. The event will not be broadcast on screens outside the arena.
People unable to attend the ceremony will still have a chance to pay respects to Hussle during a procession that is expected to move through South Los Angeles following the event. The procession will move south on Vermont Avenue, then east on Century Boulevard, circling through the Watts area before heading back west on Century. The procession will then move through Inglewood and pass by Hussle's The Marathon Clothing store at Slauson and Crenshaw Boulevard before heading north to the Angelus Funeral Home at Crenshaw and 39th Street.
The 33-year-old rapper -- whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom -- was fatally shot March 31 in front of The Marathon Clothing store. Last week, 29-year-old Eric Ronald Holder Jr., an aspiring rapper and acquaintance of Hussle, pleaded not guilty to one count each of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with two counts of attempted murder.
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 could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
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.
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.
On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council is expected to adjourn its regular meeting in honor of Hussle, according to Councilman Marqueece Harris- Dawson, a friend of Hussle's. At that same meeting, Harris-Dawson is also expected to introduce a motion to rename the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard as “Ermias `Nipsey Hussle' Asghedom Square.”
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