At least three people were killed and four wounded Saturday morning in a shooting in an upscale neighborhood in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles, authorities said.
Three people were killed inside a vehicle on the street and four were injured outside, a law enforcement source told The Times. All three killed were women, who were in their mid-20s to early 30s, another law enforcement source said. The suspect or suspects remain at large.
Sgt. Bruce Borihanh from the Los Angeles Police Department said the property was a “short-term rental home” and that a gathering was going on at the time.
“We called it a gathering, until we can interview some of the people who were here to determine exactly what kind of gathering it was,” he told reporters at the scene.
He said the attack was not random. Neighbors reported seeing several cars driving away from the scene within minutes of the gunfire. Authorities towed a black Mazda SUV Saturday afternoon that had bullet holes on both sides of the car and in the passenger-side window.
Los Angeles Fire Department officials responded to the shooting at 2:55 am in the 2700 block of Ellison Drive, a street of large hillside homes north of Beverly Hills. Los Angeles police were also on the scene.
Few details were immediately available, but police said the wounded were taken to local hospitals, according to LAPD Capt. Jonathan Tippet. Two are listed in critical condition and two were stable.
A coroner official said around 10 am that investigators were still at the scene and they had not yet identified the victims.
The entire block was cordoned off with crime scene tape early Saturday, and multiple police vehicles were on the scene. LAPD forensic scientists are on the scene scouring for evidence.
Investigators were also collecting video footage from security cameras in the neighborhood, according to a law enforcement source.
Ellison Drive is a cul-de-sac tucked away in a warren of streets lined with attractive homes and tidy landscaping.
“It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood. My family has been here forever,” said Rachel David, a resident in her late 20s.
David left the house to meet friends around 11 Friday night. When she returned the next morning around 5 am and saw rows of flashing police cars, she initially wondered if it was a film shoot, a fairly common occurrence in the area. Then she spotted a large white van she believed to be the coroner’s.
“I wait for my Ubers right at that corner,” David said, pointing at the intersection of Ellison and Arby drives, where the slash of yellow police tape was. “Not anymore.”
David’s mother, who declined to give her name, said the sound of police helicopters woke her around 3 am
“Now you know why moms worry about their children when they’re out late,” the woman said.
“I just feel terrible,” she added, gesturing with her coffee mug toward the blocked-off street where the three victims’ bodies were still in the car.
The women live around the corner from the crime scene with David’s grandmother, who has lived in the house as its original owner since the 1960s. For decades, it was a quiet neighborhood of long time residents. In the last five years, as many of the original owners have died, many of the homes have been converted into rental properties, the women said.
“Literally, I don’t even lock my car at night, it’s so safe,” David said. “Even people trying to find our house can’t find it.”
An Ellison Drive resident who declined to give her name said the sound of police helicopters circling the neighborhood also woke her up at 3 am
She assumed police were looking for suspects involving a lesser crime, perhaps a robbery. Then her phone pinged a few hours later.
“My dog walker woke me up at 6:30 and said, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’” the woman said. “Then I realized it was way more serious than someone getting their jewels stolen.”
A resident of the neighborhood for several decades, she described it as a quiet area that in recent years had seen an influx of short-term occupants.
Several houses had recently received renovations and appeared to have been converted to short-term rentals.
“There are some party houses up there,” she said. “I’ve always been curious what was gonna happen up the hill.”
Several homes in the neighborhood are listed on Airbnb and Vrbo, ranging from $600 to $7,500 a night.
Frank Coraci, a film director who has lived in the neighborhood for the last 20 years, said he occasionally rents out his home.
He’s had a tenant for the last eight months and now lives about 10 minutes away. When he heard of the shooting, he headed right over.
“It freaked us out, three people died. I could have been walking my dog,” he said.
The cul-de-sac has been home to several celebrity occupants, Coraci said. A sleek modern mansion across the street from the murder scene is often rented out for high-end parties, he said.
The neighborhood saw frequent house parties at rented homes during the COVID-19 lockdown, he said.
Benedict Canyon is a favorite of celebrities because it feels quiet and secluded despite being just a short drive from the city, said Joel Gilman, a retired advertising executive who bought his house in 1971 for $58,000.
“It’s like you’re a million miles away, except the city and the valley are a five minute drive,” Gilman said.
While Benedict Canyon once had a rustic air — some residents rode horses through the streets when Gilman moved in — the neighborhood has been transformed by investors building 10,000 square foot homes to sell or rent, he said.
Gilman said he saw a rental listing for a home on the street where the shooting occurred for $100,000 a month.
He said he heard neither the sounds of a party or gunfire Friday night. He was shocked that the suspect or suspects managed to escape, given the neighborhoods dead ends and winding roads.
Benedict Canyon has been the scene of several high-profile murders over the years, including the Manson family killings and the murder of Susan Berman, who was shot in the back of the head by her best friend, real estate scion Robert Durst.
But “it’s really not typical,” said Samantha Anobile, a realtor who lives down the street from the shooting scene.
Shortly after 9 am, a knot of people gathered at the tape blocking off Ellison Drive, wondering how they were going to get to their jobs in the homes along the blocked-off street.
“I don’t live here, just coming for work,” said a woman who had hauled a red vacuum cleaner to the top of the hilly street only to find the last few steps of her blocked route. After a short conversation, a police officer lifted the tape to allow her and another woman to carry two shopping bags of cleaning supplies through.
Another woman wrapped in a cardigan and a headband holding back her graying hair looked down the street toward her employer’s house.
Her employer’s dog, a sturdy bulldog, pulled on a pink leash at her feet. Her employer wasn’t home, said the woman, who declined to give her name.
“I worked yesterday [until] 5 o’ clock and everything is fine,” she said. She was surprised to come to work this morning and come across this scene in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. “Everything here is good.”
The shooting comes just a week after 11 people were fatally injured in a mass shooting in Monterey Park. Three days after that, a gunman killed seven people at two farms around Half Moon Bay.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.