New York police investigate the scene where Brandon Lincoln Woodard, 31, was fatally shot in the back of the head.
New York police investigate the scene where Brandon Lincoln Woodard, 31, was fatally shot in the back of the head. (The Associated Press)

NEW YORK - A chilling security camera photo shows a gunman approaching a Los Angeles man from behind on a midtown Manhattan block and reaching into his pocket for a pistol moments before he shot the man in the back of the head, police said Tuesday. | PHOTOS

Playa Vista man dead in apparent professional hit in NYC

NEW YORK - Someone wanted Brandon Lincoln Woodard dead - bad enough to apparently lure him to a midtown Manhattan block for what looked like a professional hit.

But who shot the Playa Vista resident in the back of the head and why remained a mystery on Tuesday as police studied security videotape of the unidentified gunman and delved into Woodard's checkered past for clues.

The brazen slaying of the 31-year-old "certainly appears to have been planned," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters.

Based on the videotape, New York Police Department detectives suspect Woodard was lured into the Monday afternoon ambush shortly after he checked out of a hotel on nearby Columbus Circle, Kelly said.

The killer had arrived at least 30 minutes before the gunfire erupted in a normally safe neighborhood teeming with car and pedestrian traffic. The man, who appears to be bald and have a beard, could be seen exiting the passenger side of a parked Lincoln sedan and pacing as he waited, police said.

After Woodard got there, he checked his phone and walked back and forth as if looking for an address, police said. When the shooter approached, Woodard appeared to look back at him for a split second. He looked away again after "showing no sign of recognition," Kelly said.

A security photo - released to seek the public's help in identifying the gunman - shows him reaching into his pocket for a pistol moments before he fired a single deadly round.

Afterward, the shooter left Woodard in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, slipped into the same Lincoln sedan and was driven away. A vehicle fitting the description of the sedan was last seen going through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Ballistics evidence pointed to a possible lead: The 9mm semiautomatic used to kill Woodard was the same weapon used to shoot up the outside of a home in Queens where nobody was hurt last month. Police also recovered two phones carried by the victim.

Investigators were still trying to determine what Woodard - who checked into his hotel on Sunday after flying in from California on a one-way ticket - was doing in the city. Kelly said he has been described as a promoter but had no further details.

Kelly declined to comment on news reports that Woodard's mother ran a mortgage business in California that was mired in litigation and other troubles.

Woodard, who reportedly has a 4-year-old daughter, has ties to the Westside and South Bay, both good and bad.

Raised in Ladera Heights north of Inglewood, he attended a private high school until 1998 and then graduated in 2003 from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor's degree in business administration. News reports indicate he recently transferred from Whittier Law School to the University of West Los Angeles Law School.

His address is listed on Playa Vista Drive, in a quiet neighborhood of newer apartment buildings just off Jefferson Boulevard, east of tony Marina del Rey. An attempt to reach somebody in his fourth-floor condo on Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Despite his education, Woodard had a lengthy rap sheet that includes at least one incident in the South Bay.

In 2009, he was arrested and charged with stealing several bottles of wine from a Ralphs supermarket in Hermosa Beach. In that incident, Woodard struggled with a loss-prevention officer and then led a car chase into Redondo Beach. 

During the pursuit, he allegedly sideswiped a vehicle, struck a Redondo Beach city electrician's truck, abandoned his car, hailed a cab and escaped. He turned himself in several weeks later in a Torrance courtroom. Court records show he was convicted in December 2009 of grand theft and hit-and-run driving.

He was sentenced to three years of probation and a day in jail. However, his probation was terminated in January 2011.

Court records reveal other arrests, charges and convictions in the Los Angeles area. These include convictions for urinating in public in Hollywood in 2006, a DUI and grand theft in Beverly Hills in 2008, and parking in spaces for the disabled in 2011. Woodard was also scheduled to appear in a Beverly Hills courtroom next month on a felony cocaine possession charge. He had previously pleaded not guilty.

In 2008, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of grand theft of property. Prosecutors said he stole items on Feb. 26, 2008, from two upscale markets - a Whole Foods Market and a Gelson's - in Beverly Hills. He was sentenced to nine days in jail and 200 hours of community service.

Woodard had been due back in court on Jan. 22 following his arrest by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood in April on a felony cocaine possession charge. He had previously pleaded not guilty.

Staff writer Rob Kuznia, and Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.