Co-workers gathered early Wednesday LAC-USC Medical Center to remember a kind, caring and dedicated nurse who was killed when she was attacked by a man as she waited for a bus in downtown Los Angeles.
At the pre-dawn vigil outside the hospital, where 70-year-old Sandra Shells worked for nearly four decades. her colleagues shared memories as they held candles and wiped away tears.
“We lost a very kind, caring, inspirational nurse,” said nurse Terri Thompson, who organized the vigil and knew Shells for more than 30 years. “She was just such an asset to our hospital. “
Shells worked for 38 years at the hospital. She was transported there after she was beaten in an unprovoked attack at a downtown Los Angeles bus stop. The attack — no motive has been determined — happened at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at a bus stop at Vignes Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, near Union Station.
She was waiting to catch a bus to her job at LAC-USC Medical Center. Shells died at the hospital where she worked Sunday, three days after the attack.
Nurse Bruce Bannares said Shells was a dedicated nurse who tried to help anyone in any way she could. He said Shells carried extra clothes in her backpack, just in case someone needed them.
“She cared about the community and who she worked with,” Bannares said at the vigil. “We lost someone who loved everyone and was selfless."
Shells’ death added to the weight of the last two years when so much was asked of nurses and other members of the medical community on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We nurses have been through a lot in the last two years,” Thompson said. “We kind of felt as though when this happened to one of ours we didn’t want to wait for anyone to give us any direction. This vigil is nurse drive. Sandra was part of the community.”
A homeless man was charged Tuesday in the murder. The 48-year-old man was arrested a short time after the Thursday attack. An arraignment on the murder charge was postponed Tuesday until Feb. 9. A judge set his bail at $2 million.
The attack renewed calls for increased safety on the Metro transit system, while also re-igniting concerns from some about the dangers presented by the region's ever-growing homeless population.
In statements Monday, Metro officials vowed to take steps to bolster safety on the transit system.
“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,'' County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “I send my condolences to her family and the entire LAC+USC community.''
Stephanie Wiggins, Metro CEO, said in a statement she wasdevastated'' 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.