The brutal attack was reported just after 5 a.m. Thursday at the Union Station bus stop on E. Caesar Chavez Avenue near N. Vignes Street.
Law enforcement sources say the nurse was punched so hard, that she fell back and hit her head on the concrete. The investigation reveals she was attacked for no apparent reason and that she fractured her skull.
Shortly after police conducted a major search in the immediate area, a suspect, later identified as Kerry Bell, was taken into custody. Bell is in his 40s and is experiencing homelessness. Police say he isn't known to have a mental illness, but he did have a police record with multiple violent crimes.
Following the attack, the nurse was rushed into brain surgery at the same hospital where she works as an ER trauma nurse for nearly four decades. She passed away on Sunday.
"She was kind, she was caring. She took her job to heart," said her colleague Carol Enriquez, R.N.
Enriquez added Shells had an affinity for the homeless population.
"She just made sure they were well taken care of and got the resources that they need…she was the kindest person that I ever worked with," Enriquez said.
LAC + USC Medical Center identified the victim as Sandra Shells and released the following statement:
"It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the death of LAC+USC Medical Center Nurse, Sandra Shells. On behalf of LAC+USC Medical Center Leadership, we would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and fellow colleagues of Nurse Shells. We are deeply saddened by this news.
Sandra Shells will forever be remembered for her compassionate care and unmatched dedication to her patients and her community throughout her 38-year career at LAC+USC. Sandra worked tirelessly and selflessly to keep her patients safe and healthy and will always be remembered as a "kind, compassionate and giving nurse" with a "helpful and thoughtful nature" who was a favorite amongst colleagues and patients. There will never be enough words to express our gratitude for her tremendous work and dedication."
A tragic and senseless murder directly tied to the failure of this Nation’s mental health resources. We can and must do better. This victim lived her life for others. We are falling short," Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said on social media.
The attack took place right near Metro’s security cameras. FOX 11’s request for the video was turned down, but Metro did release a statement which reads in part; "Metro is appalled upon hearing of this incident. Metro’s highest concern is the safety of our customers, and along with our law enforcement partners, we have zero tolerance for crimes committed against our customers."
Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Kathryn Barger called for a full investigation and made the following statement:
"Learning of this attack is both shocking and heart-breaking. I’m asking for a full investigation into what caused the attack and any information that can be used to prevent this from happening again. It is unacceptable for Metro bus riders to be susceptible to this type of violence. Our essential workers, such as this County nurse, often take public transportation at unconventional times and can become easy prey for violent actors. Our County has an urgent need to work with public safety, mental health and transportation providers to create more safe and stable environments. Our essential workers are battling a pandemic and working long hours in tough conditions — at a minimum, they deserve that."
Shells was 70 years old.
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