Friends of club owner Alonzo "Dicky" Ester console one another… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)
Alonzo Ester enjoyed showing off the spoils of his success, including his Rolls-Royce Phantom and his Mediterranean-style home in Baldwin Hills. But friends said he was also a cautious, street-smart man who even avoided the Inglewood nightclub he owned during the late-night hours.
Early Friday, as a measure of his caution, a security guard from the Dynasty Restaurant and Lounge followed 67-year-old businessman partway home, believing that a white truck or SUV was staking out the nightclub on Locust Street.
Ester made it as far as his driveway, where he was shot to death as he sat in his milk-white car. Police said the killer apparently approached the driver's side door and fired one or two shots about 2:30 a.m. Ester died later at a hospital
Family members and friends said Ester — known to friends as "Dicky" — was a successful real estate entrepreneur and nightclub owner who was mindful of the urban scene.
"He's been around a long time in the streets, so he's always cautious," said 41-year-old Anthony Jett, who said he was Ester's godson.
His ex-wife, Patricia Ester, 60, said Ester had talked about wanting to move to the suburbs, concerned about crime in the city. His house in the 4200 block of Hillcrest Drive had been broken into before, she said. Still, family members said they are not aware that Ester had any enemies.
Witnesses who heard the gunfire reported seeing a man leaving the neighborhood in a sedan, said Capt. Vito Palazzolo of the Los Angeles Police Department. Witnesses told The Times that a silver BMW had been parked on the street half an hour or more before the incident and was gone after the shooting.
Ester was a gregarious man who liked to entertain guests at his home. His annual birthday party at the Dynasty Restaurant was a "red-carpet affair" that drew hundreds, said Denice Doggans, 56, one of numerous friends who stopped by the house Friday after hearing news of his death.
The club owner was a self-made man who moved to Los Angeles from a small town in Louisiana when he was 18, family members said.
Patricia Ester, who remained close with her ex-husband, described him as a "people person" and workaholic. "He was friendly, cheerful, but extremely business," she said.
She said her father gave Ester his start in real estate, and mentored him as he established himself as a successful landlord. He later bought a liquor store in Long Beach.
The couple lived together in Leimert Park before Ester bought the house on Hillcrest Drive in 1999. Initially, it was a fairly modest one-story home, but after it burned in a fire, he rebuilt it in a more palatial style.
Ester was proud of his success and liked to display it. He owned three cars — the Rolls-Royce, a BMW and an Excalibur — said his brother Joseph Wright, 74. Ester was shot as he sat in the Rolls-Royce, which rolled into a neighbor's house across the street.
"My brother got around — he was a ladies' man along with a businessman," said Wright, who moved west with Ester from Louisiana.
The Dynasty Restaurant was closed Friday afternoon, but someone had affixed a bouquet of sunflowers to the front entrance with a balloon saying "You'll Be Missed" and a note that read "To Dicky from Ducky."
A woman staying at Ester's house called the police to report the shooting. Family members said she was a girlfriend who was visiting from out of town.
Detectives emphasized that the investigation is in the early stages, but that it appears the nightclub owner could have been followed home.
Times staff writer Emal Haidary contributed to this report.