A private nurse who stopped her car in the hills above Studio City and apparently got out to help a man lying in the street was fatally shot Wednesday when the man stood up and pulled a gun, Los Angeles police said.
No arrests were made in the ambush killing of 40-year-old Lucille Marie Warren at Montcalm Avenue and Woodrow Wilson Drive in an exclusive neighborhood of hillside homes.
Warren was shot at 6:45 a.m. while on her way home to Inglewood, police said. She had left a house on Montcalm where she worked as a night nurse.
Investigators said there were indications that she was the specific target of the fatal attack and may even have known her killer. Detectives are investigating whether Warren, who was divorced and lived with her two teen-age children, was involved in any personal disputes that could have led to the shooting.
"This doesn't appear to be a random encounter," said homicide Detective Mike Coffey.
While the motive for the shooting was unknown, police said, the killer may have been in the street because he knew that Warren was approaching and would stop if she thought someone needed help.
"She was a nurse," said Lt. Ron LaRue. "If you knew she was a nurse, you could find a way to make her stop. The suspect was lying in the street and she stopped."
Warren had been working at the home in the Montcalm cul-de-sac at least two months, police said. Officials of a Van Nuys-based registry of nurses, through which police said Warren was referred to jobs, declined to comment.
Detectives would not name the person for whom Warren worked. Los Angeles real estate records list the large, gated property where police said she cared for a patient as belonging to Miklos Rozsa, 81, a composer and three-time Academy Award winner for the musical scoring of films.
After finishing her night's work, Warren was leaving the cul-de-sac when she stopped at Woodrow Wilson Drive after seeing the man in the middle of the street, police said.
Gun Pulled From Clothing
When Warren got out and walked toward the front of the car, the man stood up and pulled a handgun out of his clothing. Police said they do not know whether the pair spoke before the man fired several times at Warren.
Warren was hit by gunfire at least twice, including once in the head, and fell mortally wounded in the street, police said. One other shot hit the windshield of her car, which eventually rolled into an embankment on the other side of the street. Police said the gunman ran to a car parked nearby and sped away. The victim was not robbed.
A resident called police on a car phone after seeing the woman in the street. Coffey said several residents saw parts of the crime and provided police with descriptions of the gunman, his car and the sequence of events.
Warren was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where she died at 10:48 a.m., police said.
As police cordoned off the area, residents gathered nearby or watched from their windows. Police said the shooting, which occurred near a corner house owned by artist David Hockney, was unusual in the quiet, affluent neighborhood.
"Violence is getting common all over the city," said a man who declined to give his name. "People pay a lot of money to get away from it but it doesn't always work."
Times staff writer Amy Pyle contributed to this story.