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Family and friends blame LAPD for woman's death in Venice crash

Devin Petelski's BMW was struck by a police cruiser on Oct. 15. Her relatives say the officers were speeding with their sirens and lights off.

November 20, 2009|By Robert J. Lopez

Devin Petelski's BMW had just entered a Venice intersection shortly before midnight Oct. 15 when she was broadsided by a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser. She died two days later in a hospital.

In the weeks since the collision, friends and relatives of the 25-year-old have accused police officers of causing her death.

The officers, who suffered minor injuries, were speeding along Venice Boulevard with their headlights, sirens and flashing lights off, Petelski's friends say.

The accident remains under investigation by the LAPD, but city officials say that a preliminary police report indicates that the officers were driving with their headlights on.

The circumstances of Petelski's death have generated outrage among some local residents. This week, mourners held a candlelight march from the accident site at Glyndon Avenue and Venice Boulevard to the LAPD's Pacific Division.

They've also created a Facebook page, which has more than 2,600 members, to provide updates on the case and seek witnesses to the crash.

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.

Although she had struggled with alcohol abuse, Petelski had turned her life around, according to friend Sheyla Molho. Petelski was driving home from her job as a substance abuse counselor when she was hit, Molho said. "She had changed her life," Molho said. "It's just tragic."

LAPD Det. Jesus Ravega, who is investigating the incident, said Petelski was driving north on Glyndon. She had stopped at a stop sign before entering the intersection at Venice Boulevard, he said.

Ravega said the officers were responding to a call of a burglary in progress. Another unit had already been dispatched to the incident, he 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, Ravega said. The force of the impact caused the police cruiser to spin around and slam into a tree and traffic sign.

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

LAPD Cmdr. Stuart Maislin said the department recently enacted a new policy requiring all officers to use their lights and sirens when they are exceeding the speed limit in response to an emergency call.

"If they are going to violate the rules of the road, like speeding or running a light, they would need to use lights and siren," Maislin said.

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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