Updated: The mystery only deepens — nothing suggests a professional hit or personal connection
Thursday 2 p.m. UPDATE:
Terri Gilpin, a 46-year-old tenant who said she lived on the same floor as Harold, told the Los Angeles Times she overheard the man bragging to her husband, Brandon Harrison, that he killed Chasen – but he told her not to listen because he often told tall tales. Harrison could not be reached Thursday to confirm the exchange to the Times.
Thursday 11 a.m. UPDATE:
Despite the Harvey Apartments being on total lockdown Thursday morning, TheWrap was able to get inside the building and talk to several of the residents and neighboring businesses.
The building itself is a four-story, dilapitaded ‘30s style, just blocks west of the 101 overpass on Santa Monica Boulevard. The side of the building is covered with a giant mural of the Beatles, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.
Most interesting is the lobby, where the run-in with police and suicide took place. Rundown and painted an odd, lime-ish blue, it’s surprisingly small – around 10 by 12 feet – hardly as if the incident had happened in the lobby of the Four Seasons.
The tiny room apparently had been scrubbed, and there was no evidence of blood either on the walls or on the floor.
A resident of the hotel, who refused to give his name, told TheWrap that he believed there were surveillance cameras in the building. Though none were in evidence, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that security footage of the suicide shooting had been retrieved, according to a law enforcement source.
There is a visible security camera in the shop directly east of hotel, a Guatemalan bodega called La Oaxaquena Juices, with a monitor clearly visible on the counter. A woman working in the bodega on Thursday morning said that while the media has been requesting to look at the tape from Wednesday night, neither the LAPD nor the BHPD, to best of her knowledge, have asked to see the tape.
The resident also told TheWrap he had seen the "person of interest" around the hotel the last few days and he had seemed a little crazy.
Another resident, Connie ZaZa, told TheWrap that police were knocking on doors of residents of the building well into the evening, seeking statements on whether they had heard or seen the shooting. ZaZa could not determine if the officers were LAPD or BHPD, but they knocked on his door at approximately 8 p.m. to inquire what if anything he knew or heard.
A musician and has lived at the Harvey for two months, he said he did not know the person of interest and neither heard nor saw anything Wednesay night..
On the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard across from the Harvey Apartments, the entire block is deserted and boarded up. The area was still loaded with media, though none were allowed into the building.
A sergeant with the LAPD Hollywood Division came down to the scene to request media not speak to the residents.
A BHPD spokesperson told TheWrap that there would likely be no more information coming from the department on the investigation right now.
The shooting suicide by a man police say is connected to the Ronni Chasen murder at first seemed like a violent break in the baffling case.
But the shocking twist so far has only deepened the mystery, defying the favored theory of a professional hit — and raising only more questions about who would have wanted to kill the veteran publicist, and why.
The man was described only as a "person of interest" by BHPD Lt. Tony Lee, who gave a 10 p.m. press conference at the scene of the Harvey Apartments on the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.
Capt. Cadis of the coroner's office said no further information would be released until the next of kin had been notified.
(Pictured at left, BHPD Det. Tony Lee; photo by Daniel Frankel)
Residents of the complex told the Los Angeles Times that the man was as an ex-convict named "Harold," who had bragged of having a gun and mentioned a forthcoming $10,000 windfall, either from a job done or a lawsuit. Resident Brandon Harrison said the man had mentioned two prison sentences for firearms and drug convictions, and vowed that he would die before going back.
The man — who the L.A. County coroner's office confirmed to TheWrap was an African- American in his 40s — shot himself in the head Wednesday night as Beverly Hills investigators were closing in to serve a search warrant at his transient Hollywood apartment hotel.
At the late-night press conference in Hollywood, Lee was accompanied by Los Angeles Police Department Det. Kevin McClure, who repeatedly described the man as a "suspect." The BHPD's Lee made the same slip of the tongue, but then corrected himself to say "person of interest."
BHPD investigators attempted to speak to the man late Wednesday afternoon in the apartment lobby, but he backed away, pulled out a handgun and shot himself once, McClure said.
Neither officer would give any details about what was contained in a search warrant. The man had been living in the 100-unit complex for nine to 10 months, police said, though residents later said he had been evicted and returned to ask whether police had been looking for him.
Eddie Burke, a tourist from Alaska staying at the Harvey with his son, told TheWrap that at approximately 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, he saw two men — later identified as plainclothes officers — talking to the building manager. Burke said that when he asked the manager who the men were, the building supervisor replied, "The heat … they wanted to know about a resident."
The events of Wednesday evening further complicate an already multilayered and mysterious case, poking holes in favored theories and raising questions about Chasen's death.
Hollow bullets and the style of killing suggested a hit on Chasen, but nothing about Wednesday night's suicide victim suggests a professional assassin, who in all likelyhood would have skipped town altogether — or at least not left a trail for investigators to track him down. And the low-rent lifestyle the man led would seem to undermine any personal connection to Chasen, a workaholic PR maven who collected art and lived in a well-appointed Westwood condo.
The man's apartment is about seven miles east of where the shooting occurred — but perhaps more notably, it was only blocks away from where Chasen was last seen at The W Hotel in Hollywood, where she was attending an afterparty for the world premiere of "Burlesque."
Sgt. Shan Davis told TheWrap Wednesday evening that he didn't anticipate any more information about the incident or the Chasen investigation to be released for the next several days.
The 64-year-old publicist was shot five times in the chest with hollow-point bullets, according to a purportedly leaked coroner’s report. The attack took place on Whittier Dr., just south of Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills at around 12:30 a.m. while she was on her way home from the “Burlesque” premiere after-party at the W Hotel in Hollywood on Nov. 16.
News of Wednesday night's shooting spread like wildfire through the entertainment community; at the Fox Searchlight Christmas party in Beverly Hills — attended by movie stars Anne Hathaway, Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank, and "127 Hours" director Danny Boyle, studio executives and publicist colleagues of Chasen's — the news jolted a community still shell-shocked by Chasen's murder just over two weeks ago.
Sharon Waxman in Beverly Hills, Josh Dickey in Los Angeles, Lew Harris in Santa Monica and Dylan Stableford in New York contributed to this story.