By Terri Vermeulen Keith
An 18-year-old man Friday admitted a Juvenile Court petition charging him with fatally shooting rapper Pop Smoke during a home-invasion robbery in the Hollywood Hills area.
The young man — who was 15 at the time of the crime — admitted a first-degree murder charge stemming from the Feb. 19, 2020 killing of the rapper, whose real name was Bashar Jackson, along with an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm during the crime. He also admitted a home-invasion robbery count.
He is expected to be held in a state juvenile facility until he turns 25 and could not be charged as an adult under state law given his age at the time of the crime.
Judge J. Christopher Smith said during the hearing, “That man lost his life over no good reason … You have no right to take somebody’s life. You have no right to take somebody’s property.”
The judge urged the young man and a 19-year-old co-defendant — the latter of whom admitted a Juvenile Court petition charging him with home- invasion robbery — to “make better choices” and to understand the pain they had caused, warning them that they could be on the road to state prison or a graveyard if they continued on the same path.
The 19-year-old, along with a third young man who admitted one count each of voluntary manslaughter and home invasion robbery during an April 6 court hearing, could remain in juvenile custody until turning 25.
The judge declined to give any of the three credit for time they had already served in custody, and their names are not being publicly released because of their ages at the time of the crime.
Corey Walker, who was 19 at the time and is now 22, is the only person charged in adult court. He is awaiting a pretrial hearing June 16 in downtown Los Angeles on charges including murder, robbery and burglary.
Walker’s former attorney, Christopher Darden, argued at a hearing in 2021 that Walker never went inside the house that night and remained in a vehicle, while Deputy District Attorney Hilary Williams countered that Walker had scouted the house hours earlier, according to a report from the New York Daily News.
Pop Smoke was found mortally wounded at a short-term rental home at 2033 Hercules Drive in the Hollywood Hills. He was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Los Angeles Police Department Captain Steve Lurie said soon after the 911 call that brought police to the Hercules Drive address came from someone on the East Coast who said a friend’s home was being broken into by multiple suspects, and that one of them was armed with a handgun.
“When officers arrived there approximately six minutes later, they discovered a victim inside the house had been shot,” Lurie said. “They called the fire department, who arrived and transported that victim to Cedars-Sinai, where he was pronounced dead.”
The suspects were wearing masks and were last seen running from the home and possibly getting into a nearby vehicle.
The four were taken into custody just under five months later.
Pop Smoke released an album in July 2019, and one of the songs, “Welcome to the Party,” was considered by some the song of the summer. Nicki Minaj did a remix of the song a few months later.
The rapper also collaborated with Travis Scott on a song called “Gatti.”
Pop Smoke was named top new artist, top rap artist and top male rap artist at the Billboard Music Awards in May 2021, while his “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” won top rap album and top Billboard 200 album.
The rapper’s mother, Audrey Jackson, accepted the top Billboard 200 album award on her late son’s behalf, saying then that she wanted to “thank the fans for honoring the life and spirit of my son so much that he continues to manifest as if he were still here in the flesh.”
“He created music for the kid who has to sleep four in a room, the kid who has to figure out how to get to school each day so he can graduate and make his mom proud,” she added. “He did this so that 14-year-olds would not have to kill to prove that they are somebody. That is the irony in this.”
According to various media reports, the up-and-coming New York rapper posted photos earlier that day or late the night before from a party at the home, even revealing the address. According to TMZ, one of the photos showed a person holding a large sum of money.