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Man kills himself

January 25, 2008 |  9:54 am


Jan. 22-Feb. 22, 1958
Los Angeles

Bonnie saw him standing on the sidewalk in a crowd of people across the street from the theater. He was holding a gun.

His name was Delmer.  Delmer Dean Dobbs, 23.

1957_0122_la_ross_2 A month before, in the late afternoon, he had gone to the roof of the Rosslyn Annex at 5th and Main. More than 100 police officers and firefighters tried to control the thousands of people who gathered 14 stories below and yelled: "Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump, you coward, jump! Chicken, chicken, chicken!"

As twilight fell, Delmer teetered on the edge of the roof, clinging to a metal railing.

Police Detectives L.W. Lane and Joe La Monica tried to talk to him, but he warned them away.

Then the Rev. D. St. Sure, a priest from Loyola University, approached. "Don't you want to talk with me a little bit about this, son?" he asked.

Delmer cursed at the priest. Then he took off his wristwatch and threw it to the chanting crowd.

"I'm going to follow that unless you call Bonnie," he said.

Police rushed to the Rialto at 8th and Broadway and brought Bonnie La Ross, a 15-year-old cashier, to the roof of the hotel.

Detectives warned her to stay at least 15 feet away. Otherwise, Delmer might grab her and jump off the building, they said.

But Bonnie ignored them and walked to the railing, touching Delmer's sleeve.

"You don't want to die," she said.

"You're right, I don't," he said. "But I'm afraid to back down and quit now."

He looked down at the chanting mob. "I hate to disappoint that crowd."

Across the street in another hotel, a man pulled an overstuffed chair to the window and sat, puffing on a pipe as he calmly watched the drama of life and death.



Delmer slumped and Bonnie put her arms around him. Two detectives rushed forward and grabbed the couple. Concealed on the roof in the darkness, officers swarmed from their hiding places and grabbed all four of them.  Delmer fought until the detectives dismissed the officers and assured Delmer that they would not handcuff him. Then he went downstairs and got into an ambulance.

Bonnie told police: "He had threatened to take his life before and I finally got tired of that talk. He said he was going to get a gun and try again and I told him to save the trouble and just go jump off a building. So that is what he was going to do, I guess."

While Delmer was being treated in the psychiatric ward at General Hospital, the city asked itself what made the crowd so bloodthirsty that evening. Martin Grotjahn, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at USC, told The Times that the crowd's reaction showed that mobs are "no more than an inch higher than they were in the days of the Roman circus, when the audience would laugh at the expression of people being devoured by lions."

Delmer was released after two days in the psychiatric ward and began threatening newspapers and reporters for publishing stories about his suicide attempt.

And then, on that afternoon in February, Bonnie saw him on the sidewalk across the street from the Rialto. Delmer had finally gotten a gun.

She called detectives. Before they arrived, Officer Joseph F. Scanlon, who was walking the beat, saw Delmer and approached him. Delmer pointed the gun at Scanlon and said: "Stay away."

Then, in the distance, police sirens.

Delmer Dean Dobbs, 23, pointed the gun at his abdomen and pulled the trigger. He died a few hours later at General Hospital.

The Times never reported anything further of Bonnie LaRoss.

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