Hollywood devastated by shooting death of popular publicist

As Hollywood struggled to absorb the news of Ronni Chasen’s violent death, Beverly Hills police had no motive to go on and no suspects as the investigation into the killing got under way Tuesday.

Chasen, 64, died early Tuesday after being shot multiple times while in her car in a residential area of Beverly Hills.

The L.A. County Coroner’s office confirmed that Chasen was pronounced dead at 1:12 a.m. Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. An autopsy has yet to be conducted.

Chasen was found with five gunshot wounds in her chest about 12:30 a.m. in her black Mercedes E-350 sedan, which had crashed into a light pole on Whittier Drive south of Sunset Boulevard, according to Beverly Hills police.

She was believed to have been driving to her home in Westwood after attending Monday night’s premiere of Screen Gems’ “Burlesque” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the after-party at the W Hollywood hotel. At the premiere, she was shepherding songwriter Diane Warren, a longtime Chasen client who contributed songs to the pic.

Beverly Hills police told KCBS-TV Los Angeles that Chasen was alive when paramedics first arrived.

According to the Los Angeles Times, residents in the area where Chasen’s car crashed said they heard multiple shots fired, with some witnesses reporting that they saw Chasen bleeding profusely and that one of her car windows was shattered. Details about the sequence of events in the shooting were unclear Tuesday, and Beverly Hills police would not comment on specifics.

Police searched Chasen’s home and office as part of the investigation, according to the Times.

Michael Levine, publicist and friend of Chasen’s, said he had established a reward fund for information that leads to an arrest and conviction related to Chasen’s death. Levine said his goal was to raise $25,000 in the next week.

“We must do everything possible to assist the Beverly Hills police in solving this horrific crime. Ronni gave the utmost for her clients and this industry,” Levine said.

The news of Chasen’s death resonated widely in the biz Tuesday, indicating just how broad her reach was as a publicist, Oscar strategist and champion of clients ranging from film composers and film festivals to top helmers and producers.

Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal said that execs at the studio behind “Burlesque” were “heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated.”

The mood was the same across town at Paramount.

“Work over here has stopped,” said Paramount PR exec Lea Yardum. “We’re all in shock. … It’s a tremendous loss. She was a good friend and a great publicist. And a good person.”

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