Weeks After Rapper Nipsey Hussle’s Slaying, Many Questions Remain Unanswered
Three weeks after Nipsey Hussle was fatally gunned down in Los Angeles, the community continues to mourn and seek answers.
As so often is the case, answers are elusive as an investigation into the 33-year-old rapper’s killing continues. Police have declined to divulge certain details they say could affect the outcome of the case against his alleged killer.
Still, those who grew up in the Crenshaw District that Nipsey loved and made a central theme in his music and business endeavors have questions — chief among them, why the woman who drove the rapper’s suspected killer remains free and why one of the men shot alongside Nipsey was arrested.
Here are answers to some of those questions:
Why was a shooting victim arrested?
Eight days after Nipsey and two other men were shot in front of the rapper’s The Marathon clothing store in the Hyde Park neighborhood, police arrested one of the other shooting victims, Kerry Lathan.
The 56-year-old was released on parole seven months ago, after serving about 25 years for murder. He was arrested April 8 and appeared in court Thursday for a petition of parole revocation.
The probable cause documentation said Lathan was accused of violating parole by associating with a gang member — that gang member being Nipsey Hussle, who was a member of the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips, defense attorney Lauren Noriega told CNN.
Community activists were angry Lathan was arrested on such an allegation given that Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and LAPD Commissioner Steve Soboroff praised Nipsey’s efforts to help mitigate gang violence.
“It was frustrating because it’s another example in government of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing,” Noriega said. “I think they picked him up without really knowing the facts of what happened that day.”
After reviewing the incident, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation determined it was merely a “technical violation” and requested the petition be dismissed, spokesman Jeffrey Callison said. Lathan was released Saturday, 12 days after his arrest.
Lathan didn’t know Nipsey well, but the rapper had helped him out with new clothes in the past, Noriega said. The day he and Nipsey were shot, Lathan visited The Marathon to buy a new shirt before visiting the family of a friend whose father had died, she said. When he learned the store was out of the style he wanted, his nephew pointed to Nipsey in the parking lot and suggested his uncle ask the rapper when a new shipment was arriving, Noriega said.
The shooting came minutes later, killing the rapper and injuring Lathan and his nephew, she said.
Confined to a wheelchair since being shot, Lathan is in “excruciating pain” from a chipped vertebra and a bullet that remains lodged near his spine, the lawyer said. She’d prefer he focus on his health, she said, but “we’re not totally out of the woods” when it comes to the parole violation, she said.
After arresting Lathan, police said his phone contained photos of him posing with men throwing the Rollin 60s gang sign. In the Thursday hearing, Noriega said, prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the petition without prejudice, leaving open the possibility of revisiting the parole violation, she said.
What’s happening with the ‘getaway driver?’
Chief Moore told reporters after the shooting that the suspect, Eric Holder, shot Nipsey and the other two men before jumping into a waiting car driven by an unidentified woman.
ABC News reported that the woman turned herself in, spoke with detectives and was allowed to leave. She claimed she didn’t know what happened in the shooting, the outlet said.
She has not been arrested or publicly identified.
Community leaders have been calling for her arrest since days after the shooting, according to City News Service, and community activist Najee Ali has repeatedly told news outlets she needs to be held accountable.
Following news of Lathan’s release from prison Saturday, Ali tweeted, “Mission accomplished. Now we need the getaway driver arrested in Nipsey’s murder.”
What was the motive for killing the rapper?
Police have implied that the shooting was not random but have yet to provide a motive for the attack. Holder and Nipsey knew each other, and the suspect had approached the rapper numerous times that Sunday afternoon, Moore told reporters.
On their final encounter, the chief said, Holder returned with a handgun and “purposely and repeatedly fired” at Nipsey, Lathan and the other man.
Despite Nipsey’s gang affiliation and that Holder is believed to be a gang member as well, Moore said the dispute between the men does not appear gang-related. He declined to name the gang to which police believe Holder belongs.
Surveillance video from the parking lot where Nipsey was shot showed the rapper casually talking with three other men in front of The Marathon store when a figure dressed in dark clothing approaches them and everyone scatters.
Two of the victims don’t get far. They fall to the ground. One of them, wearing a white hat and shirt, tries to get back up but promptly collapses, the video, which has no sound, shows.
Why didn’t Nipsey have security?
It would appear Nipsey knew that there were folks who wished to do him harm. Hours before he was killed, he tweeted, “Having strong enemies is a blessing.” It was not clear to what or to whom he was referring.
A few days before he was killed, Nipsey was in Inglewood to shoot a video for a song he performed with DJ Khaled and John Legend, according to the entertainers’ social media posts. According to TMZ, the production crew for the video was so concerned for Nipsey’s safety that it had 10 armed police officers on hand for protection. Again, no one has explained why.
Given the circumstances, many people have questioned why Nipsey was at The Marathon store without security.
His longtime bodyguard took to Instagram two days after Nipsey’s death to say he was leaving the profession.
“I got the Babies and L forever I’m done with all this S**t I retire from being a bodyguard I love you HUSSLE THA GREAT,” he wrote, referring to Nipsey’s longtime girlfriend, Lauren London.
What’s next in the investigation?
It remains unclear if Holder, 29, will be the only person arrested in connection with Nipsey’s killing. He is charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon.
He is being held on $5 million bail and is scheduled to be back in court May 10.
CNN’s attempts to reach Holder’s first attorney were unsuccessful. He is now represented by Christopher Darden, one of the prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case.
Darden entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf earlier this month. Holder, who has reportedly received threats since the shooting, arrived in court April 5 under heavy guard. Darden declined to answer questions about the case or how he was retained.