Police investigating the killing of Ronni Chasen have assembled a working theory of what happened to the veteran Hollywood publicist and believe the Beverly Hills attack was planned in advance and not the result of road rage or a carjacking gone awry, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
According to a Beverly Hills city official who was briefed by Police Chief David Snowden, the department’s working theory centers on shots being fired out of another vehicle that pulled up next to the passenger side of Chasen’s Mercedes-Benz around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. It is believed the shooting occurred either as Chasen made a left turn from Sunset Boulevard onto Whittier Drive, or just after the turn was made. Her black E350 coupe traveled southward on Whittier until it crashed into a light pole at Greenway Drive, deploying the driver side airbag. It is believed the shots shattered the passenger side window.
Despite suspicion that the late-night shooting was planned, it remains unclear whether Chasen was personally targeted in the incident or why she might have been the target.
Beverly Hills Police Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino said the investigation is “wide open” and the police department hasn’t “focused on any specific motive or technique.”
“We know it’s not some sort of sniper shooting from across the street — ridiculous theories we can discount,” he said. “We haven’t ruled anything out within reason.”
THR’s city official source said police have obtained relevant footage from one or perhaps multiple security cameras located at a residence on Whittier, just down the street from the intersection of Whittier and Greenway. Sources tell THR that the property is the home of Sherry Hackett, widow of the late comedian and actor Buddy Hackett. A woman who answered the door at the Whittier residence Thursday identified herself as an assistant to Hackett and said she knew nothing of the incident but that Hackett slept through it.
Hackett was not at the house Thursday.
Hoshino said he couldn’t confirm that investigators were reviewing the Hackett footage. “I don’t know if our detectives have it already, but it is entirely possible,” he said.
The Beverly Hills Police Department is actively seeking additional footage captured by security cameras at other homes in the area. The red-light camera at the intersection of Sunset and Whittier did not capture images of the incident, the source said.
Chasen, 64, was killed after leaving an after-party in Hollywood for the Burlesque premiere Monday. A BHPD spokesperson said earlier this week that officers received information at 12:28 a.m. Tuesday regarding shots heard in the area, which is filled with multimillion-dollar mansions and is home to many Hollywood luminaries. Chasen suffered five gunshot wounds to her chest. Beverly Hills paramedics transported her to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead. Police have revealed no suspects in the investigation.
Chasen reportedly left a routine voicemail for her staff at her namesake publicity company, Chasen & Co., shortly before the incident. It is believed she was driving home.
Bill Higgins contributed to this report.