Car drives into crowd at LA boardwalk; 1 dead, 11 hurt

Boardwalk chaos

Credit: Maarten Smitskamp / CNN

A rapidly accelerating car driven by a young man screeched across a sidewalk and straight into a crowd on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, California on August 3, 2013. One person was killed and 11 others were injured.

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by TAMI ABDOLLAH and ANDREW DALTON

Associated Press

Posted on August 4, 2013 at 12:57 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police have arrested a man on suspicion of intentionally driving into crowds at the Venice Beach boardwalk, killing a woman and injuring 11 others.

Police say 38-year-old Nathan Campbell has been booked for investigation of murder and remains jailed Sunday on $1 million bail.

He turned himself about two hours after the attack that occurred at around 6 p.m. Saturday. Investigators don't yet have a motive.

Witnesses reported a horrendous scene of people scattered and bloody in the popular tourist area.

A coroner's investigator tells City News Service that the dead woman is 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni of Italy. She died at a hospital a few hours after the Saturday evening crash.

Police say another victim was critically hurt, two were in serious condition and others were treated for less serious injuries.

Security video shows the man parking his black car alongside the seaside boardwalk as the sun sank, surveying the idyllic scene for several minutes before getting back into the car and speeding into the crowd. It shows hundreds of people walking lazily or sitting at cafes before the black car suddenly appears and sends them scrambling wildly.

Witnesses reported a horrifying aftermath.

"There was people kind of stumbling around, blood dripping down their legs looking confused not knowing what had happened, people screaming," said 35-year-old Louisa Hodge, who was out enjoying the day on the Venice Beach boardwalk with a friend visiting from San Diego. "It was blocks and blocks of people just strewn across the sidewalk."

Firefighters combed the chaotic crowd, finding 12 people wounded and taking 10 of them to the hospital where one later died, fire and police officials said.

Another victim was in critical condition, two more were in serious condition, and the remaining eight had minor injuries, city fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

The driver fled the scene and about an hour later, just as police were circulating word that they were seeking a black Dodge with a driver in his 20s, a man walked into a police station in neighboring Santa Monica, told officers he was involved in the boardwalk incident, Neiman said.

Police then found a car nearby that they believe belonged to the man, Neiman said.

The site isn't far from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market where a 2003 crash left 10 dead and 63 hurt after an 87-year-old man's car accidentally roared through the market.

According to the security video and witness accounts, the man with a baseball cap, gray shirt and white pants parked next to the Cadillac Hotel, twice walking out to the boardwalk before getting into the Dodge Avenger and accelerating, swerving around yellow poles meant to prevent cars from getting into the pedestrian-only area and onto the boardwalk.

"I heard a big `boom, boom,' like the sound of someone going up and down the curb, it was super loud," said Alex Hagan, 22, who was working the desk at the Cadillac Hotel and watched the scene unfold from the start.

The man knocked over two mannequins then started hitting people, swerving from side to side and often running straight into them.

The crowd of hundreds of couples, families and children who had been sitting at cafes, shopping and walking lazily along in shorts and sandals were sent on a mad scramble to get themselves and others out of the way and to rush to help those who were hit.

The car hit at least three vendors who were sitting at their sales booths, video showed.

It hit two women who appeared to be in their 60s, Hagan said.

Many ran after the car, screaming and cursing as it sped away, he said.

Hodge said she and her friend, 31-year-old Ashley Taylor, had made note of the numbers walking along the seaside.

"It was a really nice day, there were tons of people out, in fact, we were talking about how packed it was, because we were having a hard time getting through all the people," said Hodge.

She and her friend stepped into a store to buy a couple of hats, a move that may have saved their lives, and stepped out to see the aftermath, as emergency crews arrived and started putting victims on tarps.

Hodge saw one man and woman lying next to each other, wearing head braces and barely able to move.

"They were just laying next to each other and grasping hands," Hodge said, "just a man and a woman holding hands."

Hours later police were surveying the same stretch of ground for evidence.

The Venice boardwalk is a cultural hub in a part of Los Angeles known for its circus-meets-gritty-city eccentricities.

The 1.5-mile ribbon of asphalt that runs along the sand a few hundred yards from the ocean is home to galleries, restaurants, tattoo shops, skateboard parks and the famous outdoor weight room known as Muscle Beach.

It can draw as many as 150,000 people on summer weekends.

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