Injured man at Nipsey Hussle’s side testifies and remembers slain rapper’s last words

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Injured man at Nipsey Hussle's side testifies and remembers slain rapper's last words

Nipsey Hussle - Credit: (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Nipsey Hussle – Credit: (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

One of the two men injured when Nipsey Hussle was brutally executed in a south Los Angeles parking lot three years ago testified Monday that after the hail of gunfire ended, he heard what were likely the acclaimed rapper’s last words.

“He shot me. He shot me,” Hussle said as he lay bleeding on the ground outside his Marathon clothing store after the gunman fled the scene, witness Shermi Villanueva, 47, told jurors.

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Villanueva said he and his uncle Kerry Lathan spoke to Hussle as they stood between two parked cars seconds before their assailant — identified by prosecutors as Eric Holder Jr. — approached them and began shooting. “I heard it, and then I saw Nipsey fall,” Villaneuva said, referring to the volley of gunfire. “When I saw and saw Nipsey, I started running.”

Villanueva, who said he works in the “medical field,” described how something hit his belt buckle. He later noticed bleeding but ultimately declined a request from paramedics to go to the hospital for treatment that day, he said.

During his opening remarks last week, Assistant District Attorney John McKinney warned jurors that getting Villanueva to open up about the incident “would be a challenge”. McKinney said Villanueva grew up in the South Los Angeles community where the shooting took place, an area where the Rollin ’60s gang discourages people from cooperating with law enforcement of any kind.

In fact, Villanueva’s statement was so soft and stilted that it was difficult to understand at times. He refrained from characterizing his reactions and gave very dry, mostly yes or no answers. When asked by Holder’s defense attorney Aaron Jansen what happened when he turned to see his uncle also lying on the ground with a gunshot wound, Villanueva sounded clinical.

“He said, ‘I was shot too.’ We paid attention to Nipsey and he was like, ‘I’m shot too,'” Villanueva testified. “I told him, ‘Don’t move,’ because he said he was shot in the back and it was possible he could have a spinal injury.”

Villanueva said he never heard the gunman say anything before he opened fire. Prior to the deadly attack, he did not sense that anyone was in danger, he said.

Holder, 32, has pleaded not guilty to one count of first degree murder for the murder of Hussle and two counts of attempted murder for the injuries to Villanueva and Lathan. Jansen said in his opening remarks that Holder attacked “in the heat of passion,” meaning his actions were not premeditated.

Prosecutors allege Holder fired at least 10 rounds from a black semi-automatic pistol in one hand and a smaller silver revolver in the other hand at Hussle and the 33-year-old posthumous Grammy winner near the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard killed on March 31. 2019

Ingrid Caston also testified Monday and recalled sitting on the driver’s side of a parked Audi and having something to eat when the shooting unfolded just meters away.

“I heard gunshots and it sounded like fireworks. I said to the lady in the car with me, ‘Are these fireworks?’” she recalled. “Everyone started to disperse and a few people ran away. Nipsey, I saw him fall.”

Caston said she saw the shooter and believed it was the same man she had previously seen running shirtless in the parking lot. She heard “more than seven” shots. “I was so focused. I watch in disbelief and when he finished he kicked him and then ran right past me. I was shocked and looked. That’s how it happened.”

Bryannita Nicholson, 35, took the witness stand Monday afternoon and testified that she acted as Holder’s unwitting getaway driver on the day of the killing.

The home healthcare assistant said she met Holder while working as a Lyft driver and began hanging out with him in the weeks leading up to the shooting, in what she described as a no-strings-attached casual dating relationship. She said on the day of Hussle’s death, Holder escorted her to the Marathon store parking lot and engaged the famous musician in a conversation about “espionage.”

“Did you say I stole?” Holder asked Hussle, according to her statement.

“It didn’t sound like he was crazy,” she told jurors, describing Holder’s voice as “loud” but not “aggressive.”

Nicholson said Hussle posed for a picture with her, and a short time later she and Holder drove around the block. She said Holder began loading bullets into a black semi-automatic gun while she was in her car. She asked him to put down the gun and he did, she testified. A short time later, when they were parked in a nearby alleyway for Holder to eat his chili cheese fries, Holder jumped out of the car and told her not to leave until he got back, she said. She watched Holder turn a corner back to Hussle’s store and then heard multiple gunshots, she testified. Holder then reappeared and told her to drive in a “stern” voice, she said.

“I thought, ‘What happened?’ He said: ‘Drive!’ [He said] I talk too much. He was like hitting me,” she testified.

Nicholson said she drove Holder back to Long Beach and only learned later that night that Hussle had been killed.

In his opening remarks, McKinney described Nicholson as naive.

The judge overseeing the trial ended Nicholson’s testimony early Monday because the air conditioning was not working in the crowded courtroom. A technician who came to fix the problem said the room exceeded 82 degrees.

McKinney tells Rolling Stone He expects to complete his evidence part of the case by the end of the week, ahead of schedule.

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