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Venice boardwalk rampage: Driver 'looked agitated,' witness says

August 05, 2013|By Matt Stevens and Kate Mather

The Venice boardwalk was quiet Monday as locals looked to restart their businesses and recover from a deadly hit-and-run rampage that shook the tight-knit residential and vendor community.

Although the street vendors and homeless who spend their days at the beach say they know most of their neighbors, locals said they didn't know anything about the suspect in Saturday’s rampage.

Nathan Campbell, 38, was booked on suspicion of murder as the driver in Saturday's incident and is being held in lieu of $1-million bail. Public records show he had addresses in Florida, Georgia and Colorado, and sources said he was possibly living in his car.

Monday morning, the boardwalk was bare but for a group of locals gathered in a small concrete plaza at the end of Dudley Avenue. A few peered over the shoulder of a 23-year-old man who identified himself only as “Khali.” On his iPhone, Khali watched YouTube videos recapping the crash. Together, he and a few friends tried to decipher if the suspect was someone they knew.

"That gives me chills," one of the onlookers, who identified himself as Casper, said as he got up and walked away.

David Hare, 30, said he has been in Venice for about the last three months. He said he was sitting on a ledge by the sand Saturday and saw an unfamiliar man pacing up and down Dudley Avenue for about 15 minutes.

"He looked agitated," Hare said. "He was walking really fast." 

Then Hare said, the man got into his car, which was parked along the curb and facing toward the beach. He slid the car past the yellow barrier poles and onto the boardwalk.

Video taken from a restaurant on Dudley shows a man believed to be Campbell pacing near a sedan, then getting into the car and suddenly driving forward, out of camera range. Another video shows the moments that followed: a sedan slamming into unsuspecting pedestrians and ramming a canopy before turning left and speeding down Ocean Front Walk at an hour when many were simply waiting to watch the setting sun.

Alice Gruppioni, 32, an Italian tourist on her honeymoon, was fatally struck by the car. Witnesses estimated the vehicle’s speed at up to 60 mph. Eleven others, including Gruppioni's husband, were injured, officials said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Saturday’s rampage a tragedy. He said he will be reaching out to Gruppioni’s husband and family.

"This should have been the happiest moment of her life," Garcetti said.

Garcetti also said he will be working with Councilman Mike Bonin to engineer the boardwalk entry points in a way that protects the public while still allowing access to emergency vehicles.

He said the city will look at "how to keep better control in Venice" while keeping its character intact.

Much of that character is defined by folks like Scott Levinsky, who can be seen frequently on the famed boardwalk.

Levinsky, who was selling crafts Saturday when the incident occurred, said he and fellow vendors are "pretty social," and tend to know one another.

On Monday he was setting up a folding table at space 155. Levinsky said he had never heard of Campbell and had not talked to anyone who did. He remained concerned about friends that he said might still be in the hospital.

Icessy Gomez, 61, who was hanging around the plaza, said he had met a few homeless people named "Nate" in recent months, but "people here don't know your last name," so he said it would be hard to know who the suspect was.

"But nine times out of 10, we know who it is," Khali said.

"I've lived here all my life," he added, "and that is the worst thing I've ever seen out here."

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Twitter: @MattStevensLAT l @Katemather

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