COMPTON, Calif. — A 24-year-old man was arrested for investigation of murder in the fatal shooting of the older sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, authorities said today. Sheriff's deputies were still searching for two other possible suspects.
Yetunde Price, 31, was shot in the chest early Sunday about a mile from the tennis courts where her sisters first rose to prominence in this Los Angeles suburb that has long been notorious for gang activity and violence.
Price had been sitting with a man in a sport utility vehicle when "somehow they had become involved in a confrontation with the local residents," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Pena.
"That dispute led to gunfire and the woman was shot in the upper torso," Deputy Scott Butler said today.
The suspect was identified as Aaron Michael Hammer, 24, of Compton. He was booked for investigation of murder late Sunday night and jailed without bail, said sheriff's Deputy Bill Spear. Two other possible suspects were being sought, Butler said.
Authorities said it wasn't known whether Price knew her assailant or what prompted the dispute. They said Hammer was arrested after deputies interviewed a half-dozen people, including Hammer, at a home on the street where Price was shot.
The man with Price was not hurt and drove her to a relative's house in Long Beach, from which he called 911, Pena said. Price was taken to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where she died.
Early today, authorities identified the man with Price as Rolland Wormley, 28. He was jailed after authorities discovered he was on parole, which they said he violated by being at the scene of the shooting. It wasn't disclosed what he was on parole for.
Authorities said it wasn't known whether Price knew her assailant or what prompted the dispute. An assault rifle was found at the murder scene and neighbors reported hearing six to 20 gunshots.
The Williams sisters issued a statement shortly after the shooting saying their family had been overwhelmed with grief at news of Price's death.
Venus flew Sunday from New York to Los Angeles and Serena traveled from Toronto to gather with relatives. Price, a registered nurse who owned a beauty salon, was a personal assistant to her half-sisters.
"We are extremely shocked, saddened and devastated by the shooting death of our beloved Yetunde," the family said in the statement.
"She was our nucleus and our rock. She was personal assistant, confidant, and adviser to her sisters, and her death leaves a void that can never be filled. Our grief is overwhelming, and this is the saddest day of our lives," the statement said.
The tree-shaded street where Price died is lined with homes with barred windows. Residents gunfire is a common weekend disruption.
Rodolfo Pulido, 35, who lives around the corner, was awakened by the shots but did not go outside. "Week after week, I hear gunfire. It's common," he said.
Price was one of five sisters who spent their early years in Compton
She was divorced and had three children, Jair, 5; Justus, 9; and Jeffrey, 11. She had moved to Corona, 40 miles from Compton in neighboring Riverside County, and took her mother's maiden name a few years ago after her parents divorced. She recently opened a hair salon in nearby Lakewood with a friend from high school.
"I can't believe it. There's not one evil thing you could say about this girl. She never hurt any person. She was a quiet person," said a friend, Sheriee Brown, 32, of Compton.
The five sisters were extremely close. Yetunde; Isha, a lawyer and singer; and Lyndrea, an actress and singer could often be seen in players' guest boxes and hotels with Venus and Serena.
When Venus and Serena Williams were children, Price was a caring, gentle role model. As recently as Wimbledon this summer, Price helped with her sisters' personal business matters, cheering them on, the big sister who stayed on the side and never showed any jealousy of their success.
Venus, eight years younger than Price, and Serena, a little more than nine years younger, often spoke about the gunshots they heard as they played tennis on public courts in Compton. When they turned professional as teenagers, they moved with their parents to Florida, in part for the courts and the coaching and in part to escape the violence.
Yet nothing — not stardom nor distance nor the demands of travel — weakened the bonds they felt toward their sisters. At Wimbledon in July, when Venus was injured during her semifinal and considered quitting, her mother and sisters encouraged her to play on.
The poise Venus and Serena showed so young could be attributed as much to the influence of their older sisters as to the independence and religious devotion that their parents encouraged.
All five sisters are the daughters of Oracene Williams, who was previously married to the late Yusef A.K. Rasheed. She later married Richard Williams, father of Venus, 23, and Serena, who will be 22 next week.
"They don't regard themselves as half-sisters, they regard themselves as sisters," said Raymone Bain, a publicist for Serena. "The five girls are each others' best friends."
Steve Wilstein, a national sports columnist for The Associated Press who has covered tennis for more than 30 years, reported from Seattle.