Questions Still Loom in Death of 25-Year-Old Killed in Crash with LAPD Cruiser
Last week Thursday, Devin Petelski was driving in Venice when her car and an LAPD vehicle collided. She and the two officers were sent to the hospital where she died two days later. The officer driving the car suffered a fractured hand and lacerations to his elbow while the other officer was treated for abrasions and general pain. Police today released the some basic details of what allegedly happened. About five minutes before midnight, Petelski was driving her 1994 BMW northbound on Glyndon Avenue at Venice Boulevard when an LAPD police car traveling eastbound on Venice Boulevard crashed into the driver’s side of her car.
Police said today the exact cause and circumstances surrounding the collision are still under investigation, but many questions from the public are aimed at the LAPD vehicle's speed and if lights and sirens were in use. "I'm going to look at everything people are saying.. and determine what is true and what is not true," explained Detective Jesus Ravega when reached by phone.
A spokesman for the Petelski family says one of the crash witnesses told him that officers had the car's lights flashing when driving on Lincoln Boulevard, according to KPCC. After turning onto Venice, the lights went off, but the speed remained around 60 mph. On Monday, Capt. Paul West of LAPD's Pacific Division told the LA Times that a "skid team" would analyze physical evidence, including skid marks from tires.
Whether the cruiser was traveling with its lights and sirens on, West said "not to my knowledge." Based on Witness accounts, he added that Petelski stopped at the stop sign before attempting to make a right turn where she "came out up in front." Petelski's BMW spun around about 106 degrees and was left facing westbound in the number 3 lane. The police cruiser went in a southeastwardly direction, skipping the curb and going into a traffic sign and tree.
Bonnie Wolfe, a nearby resident, told KPCC that a city bus was parked at the curb and wondered if it had obscured both drivers' views of each other. Detective Ravega said there is a possibility a bus was at the scene. He's made requests to hunt down the bus, driver and video, but is cautiously optimistic. "Those busses are equipped with cameras but that video only remains on that partiular camera for 72 hours," he said.
Wolfe also noted that "moments before the crash" she "heard the acceleration of an engine roaring up Venice Boulevard, and then... heard the impact." The speed limit on this section of Venice Boulevard 40 mph. There are five lanes: one left turn lane, three driving lanes and a parking lane.
Various news and blog reports indicate that it took 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, well after the arrival of around 10 squad cars. A fire department spokesman could not immediately locate records from the call when asked Friday afternoon.
Petelski, a Brentwood resident, was on her way home from work, a treatment center where she was a substance abuse counselor. The family spokesman said she was dedicated to helping other recover after struggling herself with alcoholism--she was sober for two years. A facebook group, already with over 400 members, has been set up in her memory.
Police are asking for anyone with information to call LAPD West Traffic Detective Jesus Ravega at (213) 473-0236. During off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour, toll-free number at1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247). Callers may also text “Crimes” with a cell phone or log on to www.lapdonline.org and click on Web tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with “LAPD.” Tipsters may remain anonymous.