Mail Carrier Shot, Killed While on Her Rounds

Times Staff Writer

Dale J. Hooker was minutes away from finishing her rounds on Saturday when the cheerful 39-year-old mail carrier was shot and killed, letters in hand, as she stood on a porch in a modest Southwest Los Angeles neighborhood.

A single shotgun blast to the upper body apparently threw Hooker back several feet onto a concrete driveway at 1911 W. 94th St., where she died a few minutes after 11 a.m. Although several neighbors heard two or three shots, police said they have no witnesses.

Hooker, a 12-year postal employee, was married and the mother of a small child. She is apparently the first postal worker killed while making a mail delivery in the Los Angeles area since January, 1984, when a woman carrier was slain in Huntington Beach.

Minutes before the shooting, Clarence Gadson was watering his lawn a block away when Hooker, smiling and friendly, had to hop out of the way to avoid getting her shoes wet.


Suspect in Custody

“She was in a good mood,” Gadson recalled. “She said what a good day it was” because of the balmy spring weather and she was only an hour away from completing her route through the neighborhood. “She didn’t act like anything was bothering her, like she was gonna run into trouble.”

After the shooting, officers surrounded the one-story residence for nearly an hour before they were able to coax out its lone inhabitant, 25-year-old Kerry Lynn Brown, who was taken into custody and later charged with murder, according to Homicide Lt. Joseph Freia. A shotgun owned by Brown’s parents was also recovered. Freia said no motive for the shooting has been established.

According to Brown’s parents, the suspect once spent a year in jail after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with another neighborhood shooting. And on April 1, an unknown attacker came to the house, shot Brown in the face and stole his black 1985 Nissan truck, the parents said. That shooting left Brown with a broken jaw that has been wired shut ever since. Police were unable to confirm either incident on Saturday.


‘Nervous and Depressed’

“He’s been very depressed for the past few days over his condition,” said Gladys Brown, the suspect’s mother. Added Brown’s sister, Valerie: “He’s been real nervous and depressed. . . . He’s even scared to drive.”

The only weapon in the house, said the parents, was a shotgun kept behind the headboard of their bed. Mrs. Brown told police that the weapon was never loaded. “We didn’t even have any bullets.”

Earlier that morning, the mother said, Brown had joined his father, Curtis, at the family business, V & K Glass & Screen Co., on West Vernon. But around 10 a.m., Brown drove back to the house so his mother could use his car to travel to a beauty shop appointment. “He said he was sleepy, so I said, ‘Well, you stay here and rest,’ ” the mother recalled. When the mother pulled out of the driveway, she said she noticed the mail carrier making a delivery at a house across the street.


‘Police Are All Outside’

“She was the nicest person, she would always speak,” the mother said.

Around 1 p.m., Brown’s mother phoned to check on her son and he answered, sounding upset. “‘Come home, come home, somebody just shot the mail lady and the police are all outside,”’ she said, quoting Brown.

Brown had failed to answer the phone when police outside the house tried several times to make contact. But before surrendering, he called police in downtown Los Angeles to report what by then they already knew--that the carrier had been shot.