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Art Walk crash investigation continues; petition launched to close streets

July 19, 2011 |  3:43 pm

Artwalk-vigil Los Angeles police are still investigating an accident last week in downtown Los Angeles in which a car careened onto a sidewalk, killing a baby.

"We're not there yet but we're preparing a case for review by the district attorney," said Det. Felix Padilla, the lead LAPD investigator in the case. "We expect to have this ready probably sometime next week."

The crash occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday during downtown’s Art Walk, a monthly event where local businesses and art studios stay open late into the night. The events are growing in popularity and attracting bigger and bigger crowds.

At last week's Art Walk, a 2002 Cadillac DeVille driven by a 22-year-old Inglewood man jumped the curb near the corner of Spring and 4th streets and went onto a packed sidewalk.  The car sheared off a parking meter and plowed into a group of people, including Montebello residents Jimmy and Natasha Vasquez and their 2-month-old son, Marcello, who was being pushed in a stroller.

Marcello suffered major injuries, with his head possibly hitting concrete after his stroller was "pushed and whacked" by the car, LAPD Sgt. Jeffrey Siggers said. Doctors at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center pronounced him dead the next morning.

It appeared that the driver, who did not have a driver's license, lost control of the vehicle while he was attempting to parallel park, investigators told The Times shortly after the accident. On Tuesday,  Padilla said the driver had not been given a machine test for sobriety because officers at the scene decided "that he did not display any signs of being intoxicated." The unidentified man was released.

Investigators are currently testing the car for mechanical problems, Padilla said. Once the police wrap up the investigation, the district attorney’s office will decide what charges to file, if any.

In the meantime, Marcello’s death has spurred one Spring Street artist to create a petition asking the city to keep the area free from cars on Art Walk nights.

Victor Wilde, whose studio, The Brutique, occupies a corner space in a building on 5th and Spring, said he has long been concerned that there simply isn’t enough space for both regular car traffic and the booming crowds.

"It has gotten completely out of hand," Wilde said. "I'm from New York and I’ve never experienced something like Art Walk is now. You go out on the sidewalk and it feels like you are just getting sent down a river because there are so many people -– it's like a raging rapid. Something needs to be done, if it keeps up like this, another tragedy could happen, so why not take cars out of the mix?"

Wilde said about 200 people had signed his online petition by Tuesday afternoon.


Baby hit at Downtown Art Walk in critical condition

Car kills baby during downtown Art Walk

Art Walk official responds to Thursday night's accident

-- Kurt Streeter

Photo: Jimmy and Natasha Vasquez comfort each other at a vigil last week for their 2-month-old son, Marcello. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times