Slain LAPD Detective III Russell Kuster Remembered on 33rd Anniversary of His Murder

October 9, 2023
Birch Bay, Washington
Thirty-three years ago today, my friend and partner, Detective III Russell Lee Kuster, was slain in a restaurant shooting by a psychopath while off duty and having drinks at a Hungarian Restaurant on Barham Blvd in the Hollywood Hills.

 I was three years into retirement and living in Bellingham, Washington, when I received the 3 a.m. notification. I wrote the below eulogy the following morning and faxed it to Hollywood Detectives. It was read at Russ’s funeral services back in 1990. Below is a recording of me reading it at the 2010 police memorial services (20th Anniversary of Russ’ murder) held in front of Hollywood Station, honoring all the Hollywood Division officers killed in the line of duty.
In happier times.
Here are some photos of Russ, my Detective III supervisor, congratulating me at my own promotion party to Detective III, in 1983. After my promotion, I was transferred to Rampart Detectives for the last three years of my career before retirement in 1986. (Hence the headline, “Hodel Fools Rampart Lieutenant.”)

One of the promotional gifts was a personalized message of congratulations from “Dirty Harry” (Clint Eastwood).

“Congrats to Dirty Steve from Dirty Harry.”
Note the “Rubber Duckie” in the bottom right of the photograph.
It remains one of my prized gifts from that night. There were actually four Rubber Duckies on a board, three facing forward and the fourth facing backward. The message, “Detective Hodel doesn’t walk with the rest of the ducks.” Loved it!
Here is a Performance Evaluation Russ wrote on me way back in 1979, some four years before I was promoted to Detective III.

Russ Kuster, Ian Campbell (“The Onion Field”), Robert Cote, and other Hollywood officers killed in the line of duty were honored with their own star on Hollywood Blvd.



  1. Dennis Effle on October 9, 2023 at 8:03 am

    A wonderful post and apt tribute for one of the “good guys.” May he RIP. Too many stories begin with, “There was this Duck…………,” already, so I’ll leave that one alone. 😎

  2. Patricia ONeill on October 9, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Steve, well-deserved tribute to Russell Lee Kuster👍. Unfortunately his murder, untimely death, is all too common among the life stories of so many men who enter the world of police work😞. Listening to your tribute I feel the sadness still so strong as I remember the deaths of James Shelley, Harry Pert, Eric Zelms of the SFPD. Jim & Harry, detectives, worked under my uncles, Jim English & Frank Lucey SFPD. Eric Zelms’ homicide was in 1970 when investigations into the Zodiac killings were still a current investigation/topic in San Francisco. The deaths for Jim Shelley & Harry Pert were publicly listed as “suicides” which still brings feelings of anger & tears to my eyes. No way did these men hurt their families by committing suicide….no way!! The years of debacle that followed in the lives of Jim English, Frank Lucey and Jess Ayers (all SFPD) sadly impacted the lives of their families & friends in irreparable ways, never to be erased. IMO Harry & Jim’s deaths hastened my father Tom McGoldrick’s (SFPD, Retired) death in 1955. But life goes on with lessons learned, hopefully to be useful in solving/understanding problems in current lives. I do think, Steve, your life experiences gave you the insight (“feelings” if you will, to “see” many “clews”) which you used throughout your LAPD career! Hopefully the “demons” can be put to rest as you enjoy life’s blessings with your brothers, your children & grandchildren during your life well-lived, mistakes and all!
    Carry on….more good times ahead👌! 😎🌵

    • Steve Hodel on October 9, 2023 at 1:57 pm

      Patricia O:
      Yes, Russell Lee was truly dedicated and a great inspiration to the rest of us at Hollywood Homicide. As you say, all of the lessons learned helped to build insight into future investigations gradually from case to case. Without that foundation, I never would have been able to “unpack” and discover what lay ahead in my retirement years. So, I can thank Russ as my friend, partner, then my supervisor for contributing to what was to come. And, as you say, the demons have been declawed and put in lockup.
      As always, my best. Steve

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