LA nurse killed in unprovoked bus stop attack was about to retire, neighbour says

‘It’s sad to hear. Getting ready to retire and this is what happens,’ says neighbor Tony Mena

Nathan Place
New York
Tuesday 18 January 2022 19:22 GMT
Nurse dies after Los Angeles bus stop attack

A Los Angeles nurse killed in a random attack was just about to retire, a neighbour has said.

Sandra Shells, 70, died in a hospital on 16 January, three days after police say a homeless man assaulted her at a bus stop. Ms Shells had been a nurse at a local medical centre for 38 years, and her death has left a shocked community trying to make sense of the attack.

Police say a homeless man killed Sandra Shells, 70, who had worked at an LA hospital for 38 years
Police say a homeless man killed Sandra Shells, 70, who had worked at an LA hospital for 38 years (KABC)

“It’s sad to hear,” Ms Shells’ neighbour, Tony Mena, told KABC. “Getting ready to retire and this is what happens.”

Police say the nurse’s assailant was a “transient” who knocked Ms Shells to the ground as she was waiting for her bus near LA’s Union Station.

“Upon arrival, officers discovered that the suspect, later identified as Kerry Bell, had struck the victim in the face, causing her to fall to the ground and sustain a fractured skull,” the LAPD said in a statement. “Los Angeles Fire Department personnel responded to the scene and rushed the victim to a local hospital, where the victim received medical treatment for her injuries.”

About 90 minutes later, police arrested Mr Bell, who was reportedly asleep not far from the bus stop. Meanwhile, doctors worked to save Ms Shells, but she eventually succumbed to her injuries.

Those who knew the nurse remembered her as a diligent, compassionate person.

“Sandy was a very hard worker,” another neighbour, Liz Anderson, told KABC. “Very private person, stayed to herself but she was always working. I think her whole job, her whole life, was just helping other people.”

Public officials have lamented Ms Shells’ death as well.

“A tragic and senseless murder directly tied to the failure of this Nation’s mental health resources,” LAPD chief Michel Moore tweeted. “We can and must do better. This victim lived her life for others. We are falling short.”

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for a “full investigation” into the assault.

“It’s unacceptable for bus riders to be susceptible to this type of violence,” Ms Barger said on Twitter. “Our essential workers and the public at large deserve better.”

Ms Shells’ death comes at a fraught moment in LA, where homelessness has reached crisis levels and violent attacks by vagrants are making headlines. On the same day Ms Shells was attacked, for example, a 24-year-old UCLA student named Brianna Kupfer was stabbed to death by a homeless man, police say. Police are still searching for the killer.

For Ms Shells, the attack marked a horrific end to a life defined by service, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. The nurse’s employer, LA County + USC Medical Center, honoured her nearly four decades of work there in a lengthy statement.

“Our hearts are heavy,” the hospital said. “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.”

Neighbours, meanwhile, say they will miss Ms Shells’ caring personality and the lemons she would give people from a tree in her yard.

“You couldn’t meet anybody nicer than Sandy,” Ms Anderson added. “When I think about it, it just breaks my heart. I’m having a hard time with this.”

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