Tourists testify of Venice Beach auto rampage terror
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police officers were expected to take the stand after witnesses from around the world testified in several languages about the terror they felt when a black sedan plowed through a crowd last year on the Venice Beach boardwalk, killing a newlywed.
Nancy Martinez, 28, sat in a wheelchair and wore a back brace as she tearfully recounted the rampage through a Spanish interpreter Tuesday. She said the Dodge Avenger slammed into her back, turning a cheerful summer evening into a scene of pain and death.
“It threw me,” Martinez said. “I flew.”
The preliminary hearing for Nathan Campbell, 38, is intended to give the judge enough testimony to decide whether there is enough evidence for Campbell to stand trial on charges of murder, assault and hit-and-run in the Aug. 3 tragedy. He has pleaded not guilty.
It’s not clear when the hearing will conclude and the judge will make decision.
Most witnesses in the hearing so far said they had not been able to see the driver, but Kevin Salveson identified Campbell as the man behind the wheel.
“I saw part of his face and he was smiling,” Salveson said Tuesday. “I saw that he didn’t have any remorse — smiling like he enjoyed what he had done.”
Public defender Philip Dube noted that the defendant has no teeth, suggesting it was unlikely he was smiling.
Prosecutors contend that Campbell, a transient from Colorado, intentionally drove onto a sidewalk to bypass barrier posts and targeted vendor booths and pedestrians at the tourist spot, plowing into them at speeds of up to 35 mph.
Killed was Alice Gruppioni, 32, from Bologna, Italy, who was on her honeymoon.
Both sides agreed to a stipulation Tuesday detailing the injuries that killed Gruppioni. The coroner’s report entered in evidence showed that she had blunt force trauma to the head and neck, and multiple skull fractures.
Sixteen others were injured.
Dube has said Campbell was “profoundly depressed” after the incident and he did not intentionally try to hit anybody. Dube has called it a horrible accident.
John Drolette of Fresno said he was in an upstairs motel room overlooking the boardwalk when he heard a car engine revving, then saw the driver crash into an automatic teller machine and knock over several vendors’ tents.
The motorist struck a woman and kept going with her on the car’s hood until she finally was flung off, Drolette said.
Mustafa Balci said he and his wife were inside their tent when the car plowed into both of them.
“I thought, ‘It’s going to stop.’ But it didn’t,” he said.
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