Suicide of suspect in Ronni Chasen slaying caught on tape
The suicide of a suspect in the slaying of Beverly Hills publicist Ronni Chasen was captured on a security videotape at the Hollywood apartment where police confronted the man.
According to law enforcement sources, police are reviewing the tape and also interviewing several witnesses who were in the lobby at the time.
The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard as Beverly Hills police officials arrived to serve a search warrant at the unidentified man's apartment.
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.
Law enforcement sources said the man, known to neighbors as Harold, had been under police surveillance 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 building 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.
Terri Gilpin, 46, who lived on the same floor as Harold, said she had heard him on one occasion brag to her husband, Brandon Harrison, that he killed Ronni Chasen. Gilpin said her husband told her not to listen because the man would frequently make up stories.
Harrison told The Times on Wednesday night that Harold had told him on different occasions that he was expecting $10,000 from a job or a lawsuit settlement but did not mention hearing the man brag about Chasen’s killing.
Harrison could not be reached for comment Thursday to confirm whether the man had referred to Chasen.
Gilpin said she had contacted the police about Harold in the past, not in relation to the Chasen slaying, but because of other incidents, including one in which he entered her apartment without permission and had to be chased off by her husband.
Building resident Robin Lyle, 44, who said Harold would occasionally stop by to talk to him, also said the man had been talking about money he expected to receive from a lawsuit settlement. “He said, 'I’m working on this money, and then you’re not going to see me anymore,' " Lyle 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 authorities believe the man shot Chasen or was an accomplice.
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 Wednesday as police ordered him to surrender. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times