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Vigil held for driver killed in crash with LAPD cruiser [Updated]

November 19, 2009 |  8:09 pm

 March 3

Marchers are hitting the streets of Venice tonight for a candlelight vigil to call attention to the death of Devin Petelski, whose car was broadsided last month by a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser.

Organizers said about 200 people are at the scene of the Oct. 15 crash on Venice Boulevard at Glyndon Avenue, and plan to walk several miles to the LAPD's Pacific Division station. Petelski was struck as her BMW entered the intersection shortly before midnight. She died two days later in a hospital, where she had been on life support.

[Updated at 9:12 p.m.: Marchers reached the Pacific Division station, where they spoke with Capt. Joseph Hiltner and Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice.]


Petelski's friends and relatives have accused  police of causing her death. Two officers, who suffered minor injuries, were in the cruiser and had been speeding along Venice Boulevard without their headlights, sirens or flashing lights, critics say.

The accident remains under investigation by the LAPD, but city officials say the preliminary police investigation indicates that the officers were using their headlights as they drove along Venice Boulevard.

Friends say Petelski was a Santa Monica resident who enjoyed yoga and trips to the beach. She was a graduate of Crossroads High School in Santa Monica and studied communications at UC Santa Barbara, friends said.

Detectives said the officers were responding to a call of a burglary in progress. Another unit had already been dispatched to the incident, detectives said.

The officers were not using their flashing lights or sirens, and they had not told LAPD dispatchers that they were en route to the reported burglary, detectives said.

The cruiser smashed into the front center of Petelski's car.

The force of the impact caused the police cruiser to spin around and slam into a tree and traffic sign on the sidewalk. 

Investigators had not determined how fast the officers were traveling. The posted speed limit is 40 mph.

Under LAPD policy, officers must use their flashing lights and siren if they are exceeding the speed limit or running stoplights while responding to emergencies.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photos: LAPD Capt. Joseph Hiltner and Councilman Bill Rosendahl, top, speak to marchers at the Pacific Division station. At right, marchers at the crash site carry candles.

Credit: Nick McCutchen