BY SUSAN ESTRICH
For weeks now, speculation has been rampant about who killed well-liked publicist to the stars Ronni Chasen and why.
A blonde in a black Mercedes found shot multiple times in her car on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills on her way home from a movie premiere.
A 60-something veteran who was in her fourth decade of walking clients down the red carpet, as she had been doing earlier that night.
A spurned lover? An angry client? No.
A crime wave of black men in Beverly Hills [a theory that had to be officially denied because it got so much attention]? No.
A professional hit by a trained sniper? No, or at least not necessarily.
Police have concluded that in all likelihood it was a crazy man, a longtime petty criminal desperate for money, a botched robbery by a guy on a bicycle – his only means of transportation.
One of those stupid, random, wrong time, wrong place, “no way you can live your life to avoid them” moments in which cause and effect are not connected.
Oh, we could try to find something in the story that is now getting detailed: Did she slow down when she should have sped up? Did she roll down the window, perhaps? Is it possible we could protect ourselves just by keeping the windows up or hitting the horn?
The answer, of course, is no.
It makes absolutely no sense that Chasen was killed by a career petty criminal on a bike in Beverly Hills. And because it makes no sense, there is literally nothing to be done to prevent it.
The man who police believe shot Ronni Chasen is Harold Martin Smith. He was found through a tipster to “America’s Most Wanted,” who had reportedly heard him brag about his role and expected payoff. When Beverly Hills police arrived to execute their warrant, Smith turned the gun [that he allegedly used on Chasen] on himself.
At first, it wasn’t clear whether Smith had anything to do with the Chasen killing, or whether he was one of those crazy people who puts himself in the middle of such things, literally using it as a backdrop for suicide. Had the police been played? Apparently not. The word as I write this is that the ballistics match. Smith, they believe, was acting alone. And riding a bicycle.
Chasen deserved better, of course – not a better villain, but a long life without one. And the stark realization that a person as big as Chasen could be struck down and that a community with as much power as Hollywood could be brought to its knees by this guy is humbling to say the least.
What can you do about it? Nothing. A senseless death is just that. There is no lesson to be learned, and that, ultimately, is the hardest lesson of them all. There are bad guys in cars and trucks and planes and, yes, even on bikes. If you can’t avoid them on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, you can’t avoid them anywhere.
– Susan Estrich’s column appears regularly in The Oklahoma Observer