Alice Gruppioni, 32, was married for two weeks, and was honeymooning with her husband, Christian when Nathan Campbell, a 38-year-old transient, allegedly plowed a car into a crowded Los Angeles-area boardwalk this weekend.
Police say Campbell hit the accelerator of a Dodge Avenger and plowed into a group of pedestrians on the Venice Beach boardwalk at around 6 p.m. Saturday. One witness said that the car was traveling at 60 mph. Campbell allegedly ditched the car a few miles away, before turning himself in two hours later.
Gruppioni, an Italian tourist, died in the incident, which was caught on surveillance footage that also left 11 people injured. Gruppioni worked as a manager for a family business which makes radiators. Her father, Valerio Gruppioni, runs the company. He was formerly president of the Bologna soccer team, according to ABC station KABC-TV.
Of the 11 injured, one person was reported in critical condition, two were said to be in serious condition and eight others reported minor injuries, KABC reported. Officials say five of those injured have been released from area hospitals, and emergency officials said all patients were pedestrians along the boardwalk.
The couple had been touring the Southwestern United States; her husband posted photos of their trip to Facebook. Describing their last moments in Venice Beach, California, he said, “We were happy holding hands. Then, everything changed.” Gruppioni’s husband, Christian Casadei, also of Italy, was hospitalized with minor injuries, according to European news media.
Richard Ruiz, who witnessed the entire escapade, said Christian, didn’t leave Gruppioni’s side as she lay dying on the boardwalk. “It was just really sad to see because that guy was just sitting down to her left, just talking to her at first,” Ruiz said. “Right when I got there, she was speaking little. But after that, the next thing you know she just stopped talking.”
Other witnesses said the car appeared to reach speeds up to 60 mph as it raced roughly a quarter of a mile down the boardwalk — officially called ‘Ocean Front Walk’. The driver seemed to go out of his way to hit pedestrians.
“There were thousands of people on the promenade,” said John Drolette, who watched the incident from the second-story balcony of the Cadillac Hotel. “He was zigzagging, he did it on purpose.”
Surveillance video taken from a restaurant shows a man, believed to be Campbell, pacing near a dark-colored sedan, then getting into the car and speeding off, out of camera range. Another video shows the moments that followed: the sedan slamming into pedestrians, ramming a canopy, before turning left and speeding down Ocean Front Walk at a time when many people were simply waiting to watch the setting sun.
Mustafa Balci, said, “When I first saw the blue Dodge sedan screech around a corner at the Venice boardwalk, I assumed that a driver had gotten confused and would quickly turn around. But the car didn’t turn around. It sped ahead, striking a metal trash can, destroying a table and then continuing “like a train” through the tent where Balci sells pendants, hitting his knees and flipping his wife through the air.”
“He had to have pressed his foot to the gas, pedal to the metal, because his tires started screeching,” witness Landon Blackburn said. “I saw him, and he was looking for blood. That guy, his intention was to kill people.”
At a press conference Sunday morning on the boardwalk, LAPD spokesman said Campbell, who is a transient, was being detained on a $1 million bail. They are investigating whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident. “He will be tested and the charge was murder,” Lt. Robert Long of the Los Angeles Police Dept. said.
Officials did not provide more details or a possible motive for the incident.
Los Angeles city councilman Mike Bonin said that although the crash was reportedly malicious, drivers do mistakenly drive onto the Venice Beach boardwalk several times a day. Bonin said that he believes more barriers should be installed to prevent non-emergency vehicles from entering the boardwalk.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)