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Police: Gunman targeted famed fashion designer


No motive yet in Versace killing

July 15, 1997
Web posted at: 3:16 p.m. EDT (1916 GMT)

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Police in the posh South Beach community said they had no immediate leads on a motive in Tuesday morning's fatal shooting of fashion designer Gianni Versace in front of his home. However, they said the shooting did not appear to be a random act of violence.

"I believe he was targeted," said Richard Barreto, the chief of police for the Miami Beach Police Department. He would not elaborate except to say there was no sign of a robbery.

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Barreto said that Versace, 50, was returning from a nearby restaurant at about 9 a.m. Tuesday morning and was opening the gate to his home as a man approached, shot him and walked away. He described the gunman as a young white male dressed in a light gray or white shirt, dark shorts, white cap and carrying a backpack.

His department, he said, is interviewing witnesses and people who worked at the Versace residence in the search for a motive.

Eyewitness Eddie Bianchi describes the murder scene:
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Bystander Eddie Bianchi, who said he walked up just after the shooting, said Versace was shot twice in the head. He said rescue officials arrived quickly and tried to revive Versace. "He shake a little bit and stop moving and he was, he looked like he was already dead," Bianchi said.

Versace was taken to Jackson Memorial Whiter Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead.


Hospital officials confirmed Versace was shot in the back of the head. "He was in arrest when he came in," said a hospital spokesman. "The injury was not a survivable injury."

Blood spatters could be seen on the steps to the Spanish-style mansion as police sealed off the area.

A pioneer in the fashion industry

Along with Giorgio Armani, Versace was considered Italy's leading ready-to-wear designer and a symbol of Italian fashion.

Harper's Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Liz Tilberis remembers Versace:
" unbelieveable character..."
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"...a great, great friend..."
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Vanity Fair's Cathy Horin describes Versace:
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CNN Style Correspondent Elsa Klensch comments on Versace:
...his recent decision to ease out of the business...
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...his rise to a superstar designer...
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"This is a great loss to all of us," fellow designer Emanuel Ungaro said. "Throughout his career, especially in the past 10 years, Gianni Versace has left his mark on our times, with his vitality and joyful way of being."

Versace was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy on December 2, 1946. He began his fashion career at age 18, working for his mother. In 1974, he helped launch the Complice label. Four years later, his first signature collection for women was shown at the Palazzo della Permanente in Milan.

In 1982, Versace won the first of several awards in fashion for his Fall/Winter women's collection, which featured his now-famous metal garments.

Sometimes called the rock 'n' roll designer, Gianni Versace counted Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Eric Clapton among his clients. He also designed clothes for Princess Diana, Caroline of Monaco, and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.

Besides designing men and women's clothing, Versace has made costumes for theater and ballet. He also designed accessories, home furnishings and perfume.

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