A candlelight vigil meant to honor the life and legacy of rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle soon turned into a chaotic stampede where at least one person was stabbed.
USA TODAY video producer Harrison Hill was among hundreds of people gathered at a makeshift memorial for Hussle Monday at his boutique, The Marathon Clothing, the same location where the rapper was gunned down a day earlier.
Hill described the atmosphere as “amazing,” adding that, “everyone was respectful. There were hundreds of candles, everyone was praying.”
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But the calm soon turned to a storm as the sun set. The peaceful day of mourning erupted into chaos after the Los Angeles Police Department said a man brandished a handgun and another person attempted to disarm him, sparking a destructive stampede.
Hill recalled being right in the middle of the chaos: “In the blink of an eye, in the corner right under Nipsey Hussle’s Marathon Store, people started running away. Running essentially towards me.”
The stampede, which police say resulted in at least 19 people being transported from the scene by first responders, turned the parking lot where Hussle worked to give back to his community into a war zone.
“I first saw the makeshift memorials in shambles,” Hill said. “All the candles had been trampled over. It was glass everywhere.”
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Hill was pinned against a car during the panic and quickly went into survival mode.
“My first thoughts were to protect myself and protect my gear. I was scared for my safety but curious what triggered the stampede, since I hadn’t heard any yelling or gunshots prior,” he said. “In that moment I braced for impact … and got down immediately.”
Hill witnessed one male stabbing victim lying on the ground, along with a woman who appeared to have been stabbed. (The LA Fire Department told The Associated Press that it was unclear whether the “penetrating injury” was the result of an intentional stabbing or broken glass.)
Tensions continued to grow as law enforcement stepped in: “Immediately after the stampede, police had gathered and started pushing everyone out. … A lot of people just didn’t want to leave. This was their home and they wanted to stay and continue to celebrate.”
But the celebration was over for the night and the passionate harmony fans exuded earlier in the day to honor Hussle was overshadowed by more violence.
“The absolute worst way to pay back Nipsey’s loss, somebody we lost to the hands of violence, is with more violence,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti during a Tuesday press conference.
After the chaos of Monday night, the LAPD set parameters for the Hussle memorial on Tuesday, including an end time at 10 PDT.
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So far, there have been no incidents.
Related: Why losing Nipsey Hussle hurts so badly