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

December 8, 2010 |  3:21 pm

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