Ronni Chasen slaying suspect worried about police, talked of gun, $10,000 windfall
Detectives investigating the slaying of publicist Ronni Chasen began to focus several days ago on a Hollywood man, who killed himself Wednesday night when police went to serve a search warrant at his apartment.
Law-enforcement sources said the man, known to neighbors as Harold, had been under police surveillance for some period of time and that Beverly Hills detectives had planned to talk to him, but he took his own life.
One neighbor told The Times the man had been evicted from the apartment but returned several times to ask whether police had been looking for him.
Resident 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.
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.
Another neighbor, Terri Gilpin, told KTLA News the man bragged about having a gun and threatened to use it. "He would talk crazy stuff. He kept always bragging about having a gun," Gilpin said.
Sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, said that although the man is considered a suspect in Chasen's slaying last month, the investigation remains active. It's unclear whether they believe the man shot Chasen or was an accomplice.
The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard.
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.
Ronni 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 been 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.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Abby Sewell
Photo: A body is removed from the Hollywood hotel where a suspect in the slaying of publicist Ronni Chasen shot himself to death as police ordered him to surrender on Dec. 1, 2010. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times