Police investigating the murder of Venus and Serena Williams’ older sister focused today on the possibility that a gang feud or a drug dispute might have led to the death of the 31-year-old mother of three.
Aaron Michael Hammer, 24, was held without bail after being booked for investigation of murder. As many as four others were being sought for questioning, Los Angeles investigators said.
Hammer has ties to a street gang although he is not a member, police said. He also has been convicted on counts of cheque forgery and commercial burglary.
He was set to be arraigned today.
Yetunde Price, 31, was shot in the chest as she sat with a convicted drugs dealer in a 4X4 vehicle in the violent LA suburb of Compton shortly after midnight on Sunday.
The motive and whether she knew her assailant were unclear.
Investigators said Price and a man in the 4X4 with Price got into some kind of dispute with a group of residents in front of a home on Greenleaf Boulevard, which was known for gangs and drugs.
“At this point we just don’t know if this is gang or narcotics,” said sheriff’s Lieutenant Daniel Rosenberg, a homicide detective. “I can tell you there are certain indications to suggest this location has involved either gangs or drugs. The house was troublesome.”
After the shooting Rolland Wormley, the man in the 4X4, drove Price to his relative’s house in neighbouring Long Beach and called police. She was taken to a Long Beach hospital, where she died.
Wormley, 28, was arrested for investigation of violating his parole and assault with a deadly weapon using a firearm, sheriff’s Deputy Bill Spear said. He did not have details and could not say whether the alleged assault involved Sunday’s confrontation.
Wormley has a long criminal history that eluded convictions for transporting or selling marijuana, vehicle theft, receiving stolen goods and unlawful firearm activity, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the county district attorney’s office.
Wormley was also expected to be arraigned today.
Price was divorced and had three children, aged five, nine and 11. She lived in Corona, 40 miles from Compton.
Raymone Bain, publicist for Serena Williams, said the family was in shock.
“They’re all together now, leaning on each other, trying to come to terms with this,” Bain said. “I know it’s going to take them a long time to recover from this.”
At an anti-violence rally last night, activists and residents raised candles in Price’s memory, chanting, ”Stop the violence. Increase the peace.” Many were saddened that the Williams family couldn’t escape the violence.
“Why in this city of all cities? The city they loved. The city that they learned in, that they trained in,” asked Patricia Moore, a family friend who has lived there for 30 years.
“They’ve worked so hard to come up. They worked so hard to improve. They represent the highest of the highs for us.”