Getaway car in N.Y. slaying of L.A. man may have been spotted
The possible getaway car carrying the gunman who shot a Los Angeles man to death on a busy Manhattan street Monday was later spotted heading through a midtown tunnel toward Queens, New York City police said Tuesday.
Police confirmed that they have the license number of the Lincoln that was seen pulling from the curb on 58th Street after Brandon Woodard was shot once in back of the head at point-blank range.
New York police said they were making progress in their investigation into the slaying of the 31-year-old Los Angeles man, a Loyola Marymount graduate and former law school student. It remains unclear why Woodard was in New York.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the shooter had a driver who, after the daylight shooting, pulled a silver or grey Lincoln onto 58th Street.
Once the suspect was in the car, the vehicle headed south on 7th Avenue and disappeared. A short time later, a car "similar in description" was seen heading through the midtown tunnel eastbound into Queens, where the driver paid the toll with cash.
Kelly said ballistics analysis had linked the murder weapon, a .9-mm pistol, to a 2009 shooting in Queens. In that incident, the gun was fired at a residence, he said. No one was hurt, and no arrests were made.
Kelly said it was clear the shooter was waiting for Woodard on the busy Manhattan street, which was filled with pedestrians and which is also covered by police surveillance cameras.
"You can characterize it as either being brazen or foolhardy," he said of the decision to kill Woodard in such a public setting.Kelly said Woodard's ill-fated trip to New York was believed to have begun Sunday when he checked into the Six Columbus hotel near Columbus Circle. Kelly said Woodard did not have a return ticket to California and that investigators still did not know why he was in New York, whom he was visiting, or where he was going when he checked out of the hotel Monday about 1:15 p.m.
Seventeen minutes after Woodard checked out, the Lincoln pulled into a parking space on 58th Street, when Kelly said the shooter got out and put on a hood. Woodard, meanwhile, was strolling down 58th eastbound and passed the gunman.
"It appears he looks over his shoulder and gets a glimpse of the shooter," but there was no sign of recognition, according to surveillance video," Kelly said.
Kelly said it was too early to discuss a possible motive, but said police were pursuing all leads in the case, including whether the shooting was somehow tied to Woodard's past criminal arrests or his family's real estate dealings
Woodard has a criminal history dating back to at least 2008, Los Angeles prosecutors said. In February 2008, authorities allege that he stole items from a Whole Foods Market and a Gelson's. He was sentenced to nine days in County Jail and 200 hours of community service.
In December 2009, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor hit-and-run driving charge in Torrance. He received three years and a day in County Jail.
Prosecutors said that he came back to court in 2010 and 2011 for probation violation hearings related to arrests for grand theft and battery against a former spouse as well as a spousal battery arrest in January 2012. In April, prosecutors said his probation was completed.
The Los Angeles city attorney's office said there was a hearing related to the September 2010 spousal abuse allegation and noted that a bench warrant had been issued for Woodard's arrest as recently as July 3, 2012. It was not immediately clear how the warrant was resolved.
Court records also indicted that Woodard's mother had been involved in multiple civil lawsuits related to her real estate business dealings. When Woodard was arrested in January 2012, he listed his occupation as real estate.
Woodard graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in business administration in 2003, and attended two semesters at Whitter Law School from fall 2010 to spring 2011. A Whitter spokeswoman said he did not complete his degree.
Woodard grew up in an upper middle-class neighborhood in Ladera Heights, where a deliveryman brought a bouquet of white roses on Tuesday. Woodard's stepfather, Rod Wellington, said the family was "in really deep grief."
He called Woodard a “loving son, a loving father and a loving brother.... He was a good young man." Woodard had a 4-year-old daughter and a "great relationship with his daughter and his daughter's mother."
Wellington said his stepson was attending West Los Angeles College of Law and was coming back from New York for finals. He said he didn't know why Woodard was in New York or why he was killed.
Woodard had called his mother Sunday to let her know he was coming back the next day, Wellington said.
"My wife is a wreck right now," he said.
— Tina Susman in New York, Jeff Gottlieb in Ladera Heights and Andrew Blankstein, Kate Mather and Adolfo Flores in Los Angeles