Nightclub owner gunned down in Rolls-Royce was a cautious, street-smart man, family says
The 67-year-old nightclub owner who was gunned down early Friday as he sat in a Rolls-Royce in the driveway of his Baldwin Hills mansion was a cautious, street-smart man who usually avoided his own club late at night on weekdays, friends and family said.
"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 Alonzo Ester’s godson.
Ester, a real estate entrepreneur and owner of Dynasty Restaurant and Lounge in Inglewood, was fatally shot about 3 a.m. in the driveway of his home in the 4600 block of Hillcrest Drive.
The assailant apparently approached the driver’s-side door of Ester’s Rolls-Royce and fired one or two shots.
Witnesses who heard the gunfire reported seeing a man leaving the scene in a sedan, said Capt. Vito Palazzolo of the Los Angeles Police Department. A silver BMW had been parked on the streets half an hour before the incident and was gone after the shooting, witnesses told The Times.
She said her father gave Alonzo his start in real estate, and established himself as a successful landlord. He later bought a liquor store in Long Beach, said Patricia Ester, who remained close with her ex-husband, who she described as a "people person" and workaholic.
"He was friendly, cheerful, but extremely business," she said.
The couple lived together in Leimert Park and he bought a fairly modest one-story house in the hills in Baldwin Hills in 1999. After it burned in a fire in 2005, he rebuilt it in a grander, Mediterranean style. acquaintances said.
At the club, he was something of a celebrity. Denice Doggans, 56, a longtime friend, described his annual birthday party at the club as a "red-carpet event" that drew hundreds.
"My brother got around -- he was a ladies man along with a businessman," said his brother Joseph Wright, 74, who had moved West with him from Louisiana.
The Dynasty Restaurant was shuttered Friday afternoon, but someone had affixed a bouquet of sunflowers to the front entrance with a balloon bearing the slogan "You'll Be Missed" and a note that read "To Dicky from Ducky." Dicky was Ester's nickname among friends.
Family members said that are not aware that Ester had any enemies, but early Friday a security guard followed him part of the way home from the club, believing that a white truck or SUV had been staking out the nightspot.
His former wife said Ester had talked about wanting to move to the suburbs, concerned about crime in the city. The house had been broken into before, she said.
Ester was proud of his success and liked to display it. He owned three cars -- the Rolls-Royce, a BMW and an Excalibur. He was shot as he sat in the Rolls-Royce, which then rolled into a neighbor's house across the street.
A woman who was staying in the Baldwin Hills house the night he died was a girlfriend visiting from out of town, family members said.
Detectives stressed that the investigation is in the early stages, but that it appears the nightclub owner could have been followed home.
-- Abby Sewell and Richard Winton
Photo: A Rolls-Royce is taken away after the shooting death of nightclub owner Alonzo Ester outside his Baldwin Hills home.
Credit: For The Times