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Ronni Chasen shot in botched robbery; gunman acted alone, police say [Updated]

Ronni Chasen was killed in a botched robbery by a Hollywood man with a long criminal record who appears to have acted alone and may have shot the publicist while riding a bike, Beverly Hills police believe.

At a news conference, officials said they don't believe Harold Martin Smith was a hit man and believe he acted alone. Officials said he was at a desperate point in his life and resorted to "desperate measures."

"It was a random act of violence, more a robbery gone bad," said Sgt. Michael Publicker of the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden confirmed that the gun Smith used to kill himself at a Hollywood hotel last Thursday was the same one that had killed Chasen, based on a preliminary ballistic examination. 
[Update at 3:30 p.m.: Officials said they do not believe Chasen and Smith had any connection and that her slaying was a random act. They said it was possible that he used his bike in the crime but were not sure. Officials said neighbors told them Smith used a bike to get around and appeared not to have a car.
“The gun used to shoot Ms. Chasen is the same gun used by Mr. Harold Martin Smith to commit suicide,” Snowden said. “We believe Mr. Smith acted alone. We don’t believe it is a professional hit.”
Snowden and others stressed the investigation was ongoing.]

Smith took his own life last week when Beverly Hills police went to his residence to talk to him about the Chasen slaying. Police had been tipped by a viewer of "America's Most Wanted," which had featured the case.

Officials have said they are not sure if Smith was involved in the killing and had asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's Scientific Services Bureau/Firearms Section to do a ballistics comparison.

Chasen was shot to death last month 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 movie premiere after-party.

She was believed to have left the event about midnight, traveling west on Sunset. Friends believe she had 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. The first call, from a person who lives near Sunset and Benedict Canyon Drive, reported a gunshot.

Moments later, more 911 calls came in reporting shots heard several blocks to the west, near Whittier and Sunset. Another resident called 911 to report hearing a car crash into a light pole.

Residents who heard the crash found Chasen slumped over the steering wheel, bleeding.


Ronni Chasen slaying does not appear to be a professional hit, police say

Tipster who linked suspect to Ronni Chasen slaying vindicated by ballistics match

Gun recovered from suspect appears to match one that killed Ronni Chasen

-- Andrew Blankstein and Martha Groves in Beverly Hills


Comments () | Archives (83)

Before police and media were saying it was a different gun

It seems to be that it would be very difficult to shoot someone like that from a bike.

Actually, even with a snub nosed .38, it's pretty easy to hit someone if you're close enough in range like a few feet away. I'm nearly certain he used a revolver rather than a semi-automatic. The spent casings remain in a revolver until you eject them, unlike a semi-auto which flings them all over the place.

I have a hard time believing this was not a hit. Didn't the perp brag that he was paid to kill her? So he kills her with several shots to the chest and then takes nothing? In Beverly Hills? On a bike? I don't believe it. The fact he shot her in the chest and did not strike the head makes me believe it was somebody close to her that did not want a messy funeral with a head shot. Think about that. Seems like the police are covering up for some people with $. Time for the media to ask tough questions.

who cares....

Sounds like a cover up and using the bike theory since that is all he had.

This conflicts with things the police have already said. How does someone ride their bike fast enough to pump 5 bullets into a moving car window? How do you rob someone in a car from your bike, any way? It just doesn't make sense.

They said originally she was shot from a high vantage point, like from an SUV. How did a dude on a low bike get that angle? This doesn't add up. And he chased her on his bike and shot her a second time? Hmmm....

Clare, maybe that dirtbag got off his bike to shoot her. And even if he was on it how difficult would it be to ride up, stradle the bike and shoot. Simple task it seems to me.

"It seems to be that it would be very difficult to shoot someone like that from a bike."

Yes. However, if Mr. Smith was on his bike, he could have easily pulled up along side Ms. Chasen when she was stopped at the red light and then opened fire. After being hit by multiple shots, she jammed on the gas, lost consciousness and crash into the pole where she died. That scenario on the bike is not hard to imagine.

Yesterday or the day before they (THE LAPD) said it wasn't the same gun? Are they at a dead end here? Or is this just a way to steer the gunman in another direction?

It's all wrapped up. Convenient.

"It seems to be that it would be very difficult to shoot someone like that from a bike."

It wouldn't be if she was driving slowly or stopped.

Something doesn't make sense: What in the heck was the shooter doing bike riding in Beverly Hills at 12:30 am when he lived in Hollywood ? What are the odds that he had his gun with him while riding and that he happened to come upon Chasen? I think he did it but the motive is not clear yet. And what about the $10K he was bragging about? Where is Columbo when you need him!

something is fishy. First it was said to be a professional hit. How could a guy on a bike shoot so cleanly into a moving car? Also, how was it a robbery? If she was in her car and he was on a bike.... Something doesn't make sense here.

It's not that surprising if the guy did shoot from a bike, and not all that difficult to hit a victim. Unfortunately, there have been occasional instances in this region of gang punks on bicycles shooting rivals or innocent people who were in cars that were stopped, and then the shooter rode away after firing.

so she's heading west on sunset and comes to a stop at the light at benedict/sunset. he's also going west on sunset on his bike. she passes him and then comes to a stop at the light. he approaches a few seconds later and pulls up to her mercedes while she's stopped. he sees her purse. whips out his gun and fires the shots. she pulls away....

Wait a minute, what?! First it was an SUV and now a guy on a bike. First it wasn't the same gun that killed Chasen and now it is? Are the BHPD stupid or just high?

Cover Up!!! BHPD was out of their league from the start. The guy could barely ride a bike, yet he pulls up next to the car and shoots her five times with marksman like accuracy??? If he was on a bike, why didn't they find any bullet casings? Was this a revolver or semi-automatic? Why was the gun not a match originally? Was it a 9mm or not, as originally reported? You can't find answers to any of these basic questions - why is this a secret? Complete incompetence by BHPD probably is the answer to a number of the remaining questions.

so apparently this guy tried to rob someone on a bike and then had the mental wherewithal to pick up the shell casings? something's rotten in denmark folks.

Too simple and she is driving a Mercedes, top speed over a 100 opposite a bike of top speed 20 if in prefect condition. Cops are on the scene in a flash and the guy is racing away on a bike. Huh? Ever been stop by BHPD or seen them in action, I had both. They waste no time. They know who pays their salary and are not about to take their time arriving on the scene.

There is a screenplay here: LA Confidential 2, this is deeper than you think.

There's a dust cloud at the LAPD from someone sweeping something under the rugs.

I can't believe this! Just does not sound realistic at all. I have to wonder if there will be an investigation into her financial dealings at some point.

Sad that America has become a Mob Rules place back in year 1999 when American labor went down in power and prices started to go up every week since then ie the real recession.

What a disappointment BHPD!! Don't break any nails trying to dig further into this case. Yesterday, it was just announced that they were 99% sure that Smith had nothing to do with it and the bullets in his gun didn't match. He acted alone? Then why did he go to the trouble to get hollow bullets which prove to do more internal damage to a body upon impact? And what about the SUV theory, because of the angle she was shot at, appeared to be that of a SUV and now its a bicycle??
What about Chasen reporting back in March that she was being followed? What about all the articles written and confirmed by FBI that this was a professional hitman because of the confined area of which the bullets were shot into her chest?? You told us she was shot on Sunset Blvd as she was in the left turn lane by a SUV. I guess Smith was in the left turn lane too on Sunset at 12:30am with his bicycle??? I am completely disappointed by the lack of investigation and conclusions you have given this case.

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