A Torrance retirement complex manager gunned down by an elderly resident this week was told to "grow a thicker skin" when she pleaded with her bosses to call the police following the man's repeated threats against her life, the victim's friend said Friday.

Charlie VanHagar told her friend that her boss, Ed Quigley, who supervises the Maricopa Street complex for Pacific West Management, rebuffed his on-site manager's frequent requests that he do something about 81-year-old resident Charles "Chuck" Christman, said Portia Barrios, VanHagar's friend.

"(Quigley) knew damn well what was going on and did nothing," Barrios said. "It makes me sick. This was so preventable."

Quigley refused comment and ordered a Daily Breeze reporter to leave the tower on Wednesday. A woman who answered the telephone at the Golden West Tower office on Friday hung up on the reporter.

Christman shot VanHagar, 54, and caregiver, Maria Leon, 53, shortly after noon Tuesday in the downstairs area of the complex. He then killed himself.

On Wednesday, a resident said Christman had terrorized other residents for years at the complex, bullying them, cursing at them, taking control of what was on the communal television, and berating the staff.

The resident said Christman had told her he was leaving the complex and planned to "take somebody with me when I go."

Two years ago, VanHagar suspected Christman had slashed the tires on her new Hyundai Sonata, a car she won playing the "Safecracker" game as a contestant on "The Price is Right," Barrios said.


Advertisement

VanHagar told her friend, Barrios, that she feared Christman, who stalked her for years for an unknown reason.

"The whole time that she worked there he was never a pleasant person," Barrios said. "It just kept getting worse and worse and worse to the point she was in tears in almost every encounter with him."

VanHagar tried being nice to Christman, talking to him and cooking him dinner. But the situation got worse, Barrios said.

About three months ago, VanHagar called her friend, crying and saying she was extremely scared.

"She said that he said, `I have a gun' and he pointed his finger at her and he pulled the trigger. He said, `I'm going to shoot you' and if he was going to go, he was going to take somebody with him."

VanHagar told Barrios she informed Quigley, but nothing happened.

"She said, They don't take him seriously -- 'He is a ranting, belligerent old man and you need to grow a thicker skin,' is what she was told," Barrios said. "I told her to call the police. She said, 'They will fire me.' "

A Torrance police spokesman said no one ever called officers to the complex for any complaints about Christman.

VanHagar, who lived on the property and managed it, instead began looking for a new job and started a file to keep track of every encounter she had with Christman. Barrios said she hoped police have secured the file.

"It was hard for Charlie because she loved the residents, the residents loved her, and it made her sad because of this one guy," Barrios said. "She'd see him and she knew she had to interact with him whether she wanted to or not."

Residents said they also complained about Christman's behavior toward them. Residents said he hated the large Asian population in the building, routinely bullied men and women, and used vile words against them. One resident told the Daily Breeze on Wednesday that Christman also had told her that he was going to leave the complex and take people with him.

VanHagar encouraged the residents to start a petition to send to upper management to have Christman evicted, Barrios said.

"Nothing was done to protect the employees or the residents from this man, and I think everyone would like to know why," Barrios said. "The man had promised to kill himself and 'take someone with him' for quite some time!"

Police said Christman was angry with Leon for an unknown reason when he went gunning for the two women. VanHagar, he believed, had not done anything about his complaint against the caregiver.

He shot VanHagar first, then killed Leon. He then pointed the gun at himself and pulled the trigger.

Barrios said she was making reservations that afternoon for a Caribbean cruise that she, her friend and VanHagar's daughter planned to take next Thanksgiving from Florida. Barrios said she performed an Internet search for the Golden West Tower to get VanHagar's address and was shocked to see stories about a shooting.

" 'He did it,' " Barrios said she immediately thought. " 'Oh God.' When I saw two females -- 'He did it.' I had no doubt in my mind."


larry.altman@dailybreeze.com
Follow Larry Altman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larryaltman