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Suspect in Chasen's death kills himself

Under surveillance in the publicist's death, he pulls out a gun as police approach him in his apartment building in Hollywood.

December 02, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times

A man described as a suspect in the slaying of veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen fatally shot himself at a Hollywood apartment house Wednesday evening as Beverly Hills police were serving a search warrant there.

The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard.

It was not immediately clear if police suspected the man of shooting Chasen or of being an accomplice, but four law enforcement sources told The Times that detectives considered him a suspect.

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because the investigation was ongoing, said detectives received information suggesting the man would be in his apartment Wednesday evening. He had been under surveillance for some time, they said.

When police officers approached the man in the lobby of the apartment building, he backed up and refused their orders to raise his hands. He pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head, the sources said. He died at the scene.

The identity of the man, who was believed to be in his 40s, was not released. Residents at the apartment building said they knew him only as Harold.

Brandon Harrison said Harold described himself to other tenants as an ex-convict who served two stints in state prison, the most recent for firearms and drug convictions. Harold vowed that he would never go back to prison, according to Harrison.

"He told me several times, 'If it ever came back down to me going to prison, I would die first,'" Harrison said.

The man moved into the building three months ago, Harrison said, but was evicted. Harold had returned to the building repeatedly and asked Harrison and others if police had been looking for him.

He said Harold told him that he was supposed to be getting $10,000, at one point saying it was for a job he did and on another occasion saying it was from a lawsuit.

Harrison said he had no way of corroborating Harold's claims. "I don't [know] if anything he told me was true," Harrison said. "The man was very strange."

Chasen's slaying shocked Hollywood and sparked endless speculation.

The publicist was shot to death early Nov. 16 while driving her Mercedes-Benz near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

She was on her way home from a party after the premiere of the movie "Burlesque."

Chasen is believed to have left the event about midnight and was traveling west on Sunset.

Friends believe she planned to head south to her condominium on Wilshire Boulevard near the grounds of the Los Angeles Country Club.

Several residents dialed 911 at the time of the attack, saying they heard gunshots. Moments later, another resident called 911 to report hearing the car crash into a light pole.

People living on Whittier Drive who heard the crash ran to the scene and found Chasen slumped over the steering wheel, bleeding. The passenger-side window was shattered.

Detectives have repeatedly stated that the case was wide open and that they had neither a motive nor a suspect.

Beverly Hills police issued a statement Wednesday night saying that its officers were at the apartment when the shooting occurred but declined to provide further details.

The Harvey is home to a diverse array of tenants who pay month-to-month rents, including a number of elderly people and others on fixed incomes, as well as younger people.

Terri Gilpin, 46, said she stepped out of the elevator on the ground level of the building and saw blood splattered on the floor.

Gilpin said she had heard what she thought was a car backfiring. "I really didn't think anything of it," she said, "because I was kind of drowsy."

Then a neighbor knocked on the door saying someone had been shot.

Gilpin said the entryway had been cordoned off as LAPD officers gathered near the door.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Times staff writers Abby Sewell and Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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