Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christian Brando — A Hollywood Family Tragedy

Panic and Arrest

The loud report of the .45 echoed through the bungalow and instantly Christian realized the severity of the situation. Drollet lay on the sofa where he was when Christian entered the room, lifeless eyes staring past his now-frightened killer. From all over the house the family came running. When Brando reached the room and saw what had happened, he rushed to Dag and tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It was too late, and Brando had someone call the authorities. Then he desperately talked Christian out of his drunken desire to flee the scene of the crime.

Marlon Brando answered the door when police arrived and ushered them into his home. Authorities found Christian and Cheyenne seated on the floor of the bungalow's living room. He had his arm around his sister and was talking quietly to her, trying to comfort her. The police separated the pair and placed Christian in handcuffs.

Jacques Drollet, victim's father (AP/Wide World)
Jacques Drollet,
victim's father
(AP/Wide World)

Patrolman Steve Cunningham was the first officer on the scene and reported that Christian was very talkative when he arrived.

"I shot him, man," Christian Brando told the officer. "But not on purpose. We were both in a fit of rage. The gun went off. Please believe me, man. I wouldn't do it in my father's house."

Christian told him that Drollet was shot as the two men struggled for possession of the weapon. "He went nuts," Christian told Cunningham.

"He wasn't sure who was trying to shoot who," Cunningham told the court during Christian's preliminary hearing a month after the shooting.

Los Angeles Police Detective Steve Osti was assigned to the case that night and sat down with Christian. After advising Christian that he could remain silent and that he had the right to an attorney, Osti began questioning Christian about the events of the evening. He recorded the confession given by the talkative Christian, who was still affected by alcohol to the point that his blood-alcohol content was 0.19 percent, then almost twice the legal limit for a drunk driving charge.

His comments to police were disjointed and incriminating.

"I did it because he hurt my sister," Christian said. "He was laying on the couch. He was fighting with my sister. I said, 'You leave my sister alone.' We were both in a rage. The f—ing gun went off."

Later in the interview, Christian told Cunningham that he did not like Drollet and added, "Man, death is too good for the guy."

The shooting was quickly picked up by the press and with a fervor unseen before, the aggressive Los Angeles media set up camp outside the gated compound, searching for scraps of any information. As helicopters with photographers circled overhead, some reporters managed to find Jack Nicholson's trash, but came away with just old coffee grounds and fan letters.

The Brandos and the Drollets were longtime friends, so Marlon Brando hoped to be the one to tell Dag's family about the tragedy. Instead, the tabloid television show "Hard Copy" beat him to it and broke the news to the shocked family.

"Oh my God!" the media dutifully reported Drollet's father as saying. "He was a good boy, but that's all over now."

In the early media reports, "family members" were quoted as telling police about Drollet's abuse of Cheyenne was an isolated incident and Christian was portrayed as a drunken failure who was the child of a Hollywood icon.

"Dag never beat Cheyenne," Jacques Drollet said. "Perhaps on one or two occasions when Cheyenne was in a rage, she was scratching him, hitting him, throwing things at Dag, perhaps he gave her one or two slaps, but he never beat her and nothing at all since she was pregnant, never, Dag is too well-behaved."

Christian was taken to the Hollywood substation and held on suspicion of murder. Police said that additional charges unrelated to the shooting would be filed, as they found a large stockpile of weapons in the home. Some of the weapons, which belonged to Christian, a self-described gun lover, were illegal automatic weapons.

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