Bryannita Nicholson had no idea Nipsey Hussle had been shot — even as she drove the man who killed the beloved L.A. rapper away from the crime scene.
Nicholson had met the man in her passenger seat, Eric Holder Jr., only one month earlier, when she picked him up in that same Chevy Cruze while she was driving for Lyft.
The 35-year-old caretaker and rideshare driver didn’t consider Holder a “boyfriend,” but she said the two had been intimate and hung out “every other day” for weeks, meeting up at the Santa Monica Pier, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at a home music studio in Long Beach.
But they had never been to South L.A. together. Not until March 31, 2019, when they pulled into the parking lot that housed Marathon Clothing. Nicholson said she noticed Hussle standing in the parking lot, yelled out, “He fine, I wanna take a picture with him,” and raced over to snap a selfie a few minutes later.
It wouldn’t be long before Hussle lay there dying. At the same time, Holder was stewing in Nicholson’s car on a drive to Long Beach. It would be hours before Nicholson learned she’d played a part in one of the most infamous slayings in recent Los Angeles history.
On Monday and Tuesday, Nicholson gave jurors at Holder’s murder trial their only insight into his actions immediately before and after Hussle’s slaying. Although Holder has already admitted to killing the musician, Nicholson’s testimony could prove crucial as jurors try to determine the gunman’s mental state and decide whether to convict him of murder or manslaughter.
Holder, a Rollin 60s Crip gang member who last lived in Long Beach, faces a de facto life sentence if convicted of murder and attempted murder for killing Hussle and wounding two other men. Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen has argued that his client is only guilty of voluntary manslaughter because he became irrational after Hussle told him he heard a rumor that Holder had “snitched.”
Although other witnesses have testified that Hussle was trying to help Holder, warning him about the snitching rumor because such gossip could prove deadly for a Crips gang member, Nicholson said she overheard Holder ask Hussle if he had ever snitched. Hussle became annoyed, according to Nicholson, but never aggressive.
Authorities have never clarified if either Hussle or Holder had ever served as an informant.
When the conversation between Hussle and Holder ended, Nicholson said, she and Holder got into her car to leave. She wanted to go home to Long Beach, but Holder insisted he wanted her to pull over so he could finish eating food he’d ordered from a burger joint in Hussle’s strip mall. As they drove on Slauson Avenue, Holder began loading bullets into a handgun, according to Nicholson.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing? You put that away, you ain’t gonna shoot nothing outside my car,’” she said Tuesday.
Nicholson said she pulled over in a parking lot that led into an alley alongside the strip mall. Holder didn’t seem upset or angry, she said, but told her to wait for him, then got out of the car.
Out of Nicholson’s view, Holder returned to the parking lot and opened fire with a handgun and a revolver, shooting Hussle 10 times, prosecutors have said. The bullets pierced the rapper’s head, torso and spine, and he died a short time later.
Nicholson said she heard two gunshots and saw a man running away from the parking lot. She said Holder soon ran back to her car, ordered her to drive and threatened to slap her for asking questions. Despite seeing Holder wielding firearms in her car minutes earlier, she told jurors she didn’t think he had shot anyone or that Hussle had been hurt.
The two had a long, quiet ride back to Long Beach, Nicholson said. He wouldn’t say a word about what happened.
Hours later, Nicholson said, she saw a news report about Hussle’s death. Yet, she still didn’t blame Holder.
“I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I was just there, how did he get shot,’” she said. “I was like I heard the shots or whatever, but I didn’t think like Eric did it or nothing like that.”
That night, Holder asked to stay at her place. By that time, Nicholson said, she’d posted the picture she’d taken with Hussle to social media, and people began asking if she was there when he was killed. Around the same time, social media posts linking Holder to the crime had surfaced online.
“I asked him about it, again, about the social media thing, seeing those, and he didn’t say too much. He just kinda like brushed it off,” said Nicholson, adding that Holder then smoked some marijuana and went to sleep.
The next morning, Nicholson said, she helped Holder get a hotel room and went to work. Not long after that, Nicholson received a phone call from her mother — her car was on the news in reports about Hussle’s murder.
Nicholson quickly turned herself in to police, and spent five hours being quizzed by Los Angeles police detectives. Holder was arrested in Bellflower the next day. Jansen has said his client was trying to check into a mental health facility.
The district attorney’s office has granted Nicholson immunity in the case, though the terms of her deal would be null and void if a judge rules she lied on the stand.
Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney could wrap up the prosecution’s case against Holder as early as Wednesday. Jansen has declined to tell reporters what, if any, witnesses he plans to call in Holder’s defense. The case could be in the hands of a jury by the end of the week.