LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - Metro officials expressed condolences Monday over the death of a 70-year-old nurse who was attacked while waiting for a bus near Union Station, and they vowed to take steps to bolster safety for riders on the transit system.
Sandra Shells was attacked about 5:15 a.m. Thursday near Vignes Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, a short distance from Union Station, as she waited to catch a bus to her job at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Shells died Sunday at the hospital.
Kerry Bell, 48, described by police as a homeless man, was arrested a short time after the attack and remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, according to sheriff's department records. Police said Bell punched Shells in the head in an unprovoked attack, causing her to fall and strike her head on the ground.
Although Bell was booked on suspicion of assault, Shells' death will open the suspect to a possible murder charge.
"I am devastated to learn that the LAC+USC nurse who was attacked at a Metro bus stop a couple of days ago has succumbed to her injuries," county Supervisor Hilda Solis, chair of the Metro Board of Directors, said in a statement Monday. "As a frontline essential worker, she helped save countless lives throughout the pandemic and it is a heartbreaking loss to lose a hero.
"As chair of the Metro Board of Directors, I will continue to push for an enhanced safety plan for riders and staff so we can prevent tragic incidents like this from happening again. I send my condolences to her family and the entire LAC+USC community."
Stephanie Wiggins, Metro CEO, said in a statement she was "devastated" to learn of Shells' death.
"This tragic and random act of violence makes us even more determined to maintain our vigilance around safety on our system and we will continue to work with the community and our partners to identify long-term public safety measures," Wiggins said.
Metro officials urged the public and transit riders to report any suspicious or criminal activity on the system through the Metro Transit Watch app, or by calling 888-950-SAFE (7233), or texting 213-788-2777. For emergencies, people should call 911, officials said.
Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center released a statement Sunday night, saying, "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," according to the medical center.
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