Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Questions of Violence Linger After Murder of Rapper Nipsey Hustle

They nabbed a suspect, but questions of violence and the star's dream linger.

At the Los Angeles Times:

The killing was like many others in this city — a young man gunned down on a street in South Los Angeles.

The questions were familiar too. Was it gang related? A personal dispute?

But because the victim was renowned rapper Nipsey Hussle, the mourning transcended family and friends and became a citywide conversation.

Hussle's coming of age as a member of the Rollin' 60s Crips who made it big in the music industry was on Angelenos' minds. The conversation included broader narratives about the persistent violence in South L.A. and Hussle's efforts to help young people harness their creativity through avenues such as the tech industry that have not traditionally been rooted in black and brown neighborhoods.

Hussle's choice to put his money in the community he came from as the owner of many small businesses, including the clothing store where he was fatally shot Sunday, is part of what many see as his legacy. He viewed entrepreneurship as a way to find success beyond the long-shot occupations of sports and music.

But the choice to stay close to home also put him in the line of fire as a wealthy and influential person in a place where disputes among acquaintances and rivals are sometimes settled violently.

"Being quick to the gun — the resolving of problems with a gun is going to always end up bad," said Ben "Taco" Owens, who works to prevent gang violence in South L.A.

The dichotomy was on display late Monday when several people were injured at a vigil for Hussle that turned violent when the crowd stampeded after reports of gunfire. Police said no shots were fired, but paramedics transported more than a dozen people, including two in critical condition, to the hospital. Most of the injuries were related to people being trampled.

On Monday, as radio DJs devoted their programs to Hussle and online tributes continued to pour in, LAPD sources said they had identified the suspect as Eric Holder, 29, of Los Angeles, and said they are searching for him.

Holder was last seen in a white, four-door 2016 Chevy Cruze, with the California license plate number 7RJD742. The vehicle was driven by an unidentified woman, according to the LAPD.

Authorities had previously said the shooter was someone in Hussle's orbit and they believed the motive was likely personal, not a gang feud.

According to initial reports, a young man opened fire on Hussle at close range before scrambling to a getaway car. The L.A. County coroner said Monday that Hussle, 33, whose legal name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom, died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso. He was pronounced dead at a hospital at 3:55 p.m. Two others were wounded in the shooting.

The investigation encompasses witness interviews, social media posts and security camera footage of the strip mall that houses The Marathon Clothing, the rapper's store at the corner of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, a source said.

The LAPD scheduled a press conference for Tuesday morning to provide updates.

"The saddest part of the story is that he represented a new path that gang members can create for themselves as entrepreneurs," said Alex Alonso, a gang expert and adjunct professor at Cal State Long Beach.

RELATED: Nipsey Hussle's dreams were bigger than hip-hop »

LAPD Chief Michel Moore put Hussle's killing in the context of a recent uptick in violence, noting that there have been 26 shootings and 10 homicides in the city since the previous Sunday.

"That's 36 families left picking up the pieces," Moore tweeted. "We will work aggressively with our community to quell this senseless loss of life."

Hussle was set to meet with Moore and Police Commission President Steve Soboroff on Monday to talk about solutions to gang violence.

"Throughout the years, as he fostered success in his music career, he chose ... to reinvest and try to address the various underpinnings that fostered this environment. It's just terrible," Moore said Monday.

As his music career took shape over the last decade and a half, Hussle carefully considered how he would use his platform to influence the violent culture he came from.

He sang about gang life because that was what he knew, he said in a 2009 interview on Alonso's website, streetgangs.com. But he predicted that as his life changed, so would his themes...