Ambition brought Carrie Jean Melvin to Hollywood, where she chased a career in entertainment between waitressing and working odd jobs.
Unlike so many with similar dreams of stardom, Melvin had a side gig that police say led to her death.
On a Sunday night in early July, as Melvin, 30, walked toward a restaurant near Sunset Boulevard with her boyfriend, someone walked up behind them, aimed a shotgun at her head and pulled the trigger. The gunman fled in a black sedan, police said.
FOR THE RECORD:
Hollywood shooting: An article in the July 26 California section about an arrest in a Hollywood slaying reported that suspect Ezeoma Obioha had claimed that his security company was endorsed by the LAPD, according to Monique Carrabba, secretary of the Picfair Village Community Assn. After publication, Carrabba clarified that Obioha had claimed on his website that the security company was endorsed by the community association. —
Following weeks of investigative work, Los Angeles police on Friday arrested the man who they say fired the shot: Ezeoma Obioha.
A onetime security guard with a fledgling clothing line and civic ties, Obioha, 31, had contracted with Melvin's newly launched social media company to market his business, LAPD Lt. John Radke said. A dispute erupted when Obioha wrote her a check that bounced and she threatened to take him to court, authorities said. She never received the several hundred dollars she was owed, police said.
"I'm thankful that he was apprehended and arrested, but we can't celebrate," her father, Bernie Melvin, said Saturday. "This was a violent, senseless, meaningless act."
Her father said he knew his only daughter was dealing with a client who had written a bad check. The ordeal strained her finances and forced her to add waitressing shifts. She couldn't celebrate her father's birthday in mid-June or visit her parents' home in Morro Bay for Father's Day, he said.
Melvin had showed an independent spirit since she was a toddler, wondering aloud why she must "color within the lines," her father recalled. At 15, she began working at Taco Bell, and during college at UC Santa Cruz, she balanced two jobs while completing a double-major in film and English.
"This was a person who didn't want a handout," Bernie Melvin said. "This kid was like a rocket that was just going. You had to stand back and just be amazed."
It's unclear how Melvin crossed paths with Obioha, whose shop along Pico Boulevard in Mid-City, Hoods Inc., sold urban-style T-shirts and hats.
The shop, Obioha's home and a marijuana dispensary next to Obioha's shop were raided Friday by Los Angeles police, police said.
Obioha, who had a state-issued security guard license that expired in May, worked as the guard for the marijuana dispensary, Radke said. Obioha's license to carry a firearm expired in late 2014, records show.
Obioha was a familiar figure in his neighborhood, serving on the LAPD's community advisory board in the Wilshire area and as the secretary to the Picfair Village Community Assn., covering the neighborhood near Pico Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.
Those who worked with Obioha say he came off as eager and professional but seemed to have questionable motives, trying to parlay his involvement in civic groups to boost the profile of his private security company.
He claimed that his security company, known as the Neighborhood Watch Network, was endorsed by the LAPD, said Monique Carrabba, the secretary of the Picfair Village Community Assn.
"He would come to the meetings with his security company hat on and security company shirt," Carrabba said. When he was instructed on how to take meeting minutes — his main duty as the board secretary — he vehemently rejected the feedback, said a former board member who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Obioha's slew of websites and social media profiles trumpet his chief executive titles. According to public records, he was listed as president of at least five companies.
Online, he advertised his community ties while outlining his vision for neighborhood safety: armed security officers patrolling "defined boundaries established by the neighborhood council of that region."
A former colleague at a Pacific Palisades-based private security firm described Obioha as courteous and polite.
"I've never seen him moody or upset," said Humberto Vallejo, who worked with Obioha for more than a year. But unbeknownst to Vallejo, his name was listed as the "chief operations officer" on the website of the Neighborhood Watch Network. "I had no idea," he said Saturday.
More recently, Obioha appears to have focused on his clothing business, trying to launch a luxury shoe line. In a video posted in late 2014 that promotes his "hoodfellas" brand, he reaffirmed his mission: "I'm all about security, protecting people, protecting the community, protecting these young kids out here — stop them from gangbanging, get them off the street."
Obioha is being held in lieu of $1-million bail; he has not been charged.