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Residents Call For Change Following Death Of ER Nurse Sandra Shells

STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) — The death of Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center emergency room nurse Sandra Shells has made waves across the Southland, as residents call for a change in public safety measures amidst rising crime rates.

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She was approached by an unhoused man on Thursday morning, who slapped her without cause. She fell to the ground, hitting her head. Shells was rushed to the same hospital that she had worked at for nearly 40 years, and after surgery she succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

Now, Angelenos are calling for change from public transportation officials.

Christopher Richie, who rides the Metro on a daily basis, told CBS reporters that for him, enough is enough. "Somebody lost their life just going to work, I'm getting off work, we're all going to work, getting off work, that's what this place is for - go to work, get off work, " he said, "We need to change it. Put more police on these trains, because when you get on the train at night, it feels like a big dope house - people doing drugs, partying, acting crazy…it should be safe out here, that woman was a nurse!"

While colleagues, friends and loved ones hope to honor Shells' memory with a pair of vigils held at the bus stop on Cesar Chavez and Vignes Street, other locals have made their concerns known to the people in charge.

In response, Metro officials have released a series of statements in hopes of showing a renewed commitment to securing the public transit system. On Monday, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins issued a statement that said, in part: "This tragic and random act of violence makes us even more determined to maintain our vigilance around safety. We will continue to work to identify long-term public safety measures."

This isn't the first time that public transportation safety issues have made headlines. In November 2021, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva boarded several buses and trains in Los Angeles, calling them "mobile homeless shelters." His move came months after Metro officials moved to rely on resources other than law enforcement when it came to handling homeless issues within public transportation.

At the time of his visit, Villanueva provided statistics on the crime that seems to circulate around the city's public transportation, including: six murders, 26 rapes, and 1,450 robberies/assaults over a three-year span, as of November 2021. Villanueva's goal was to have deputies from Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department police the entire transit system.

One month later, Metro officials announced an extension of their contracts with law enforcement authorities through December 2022. Those agencies include the  Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department - to the tune of $75 million.

They also reportedly approved a $40 million plan to fund public safety alternatives at the same time.

While Richie waits for officials to put a plan into motion, he hopes that other riders will be more cognizant of others and their safety in the meantime. He won't forget Shells' story anytime soon, with certain parts resonating with his own life - despite not knowing the woman on a personal level.

He was at the bus stop on Sunday night when several of Shells' colleagues gathered to set up a memorial for their friend. "That really hurt me, because my grandma was a nurse and they said she was 70-years-old. That really broke me down in my heart," he said.

With the memorial growing over coming days in preparation for the two Wednesday vigils - held from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Shells' friends made sure to note that it wasn't just to pay honor to their friend, but to ask for help and raise awareness of the pressing issue, so that no one else would have to experience what they have since she was attacked on Thursday.

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