“Death by Police Car” Victim’s Family Files Suit

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A civil suit for negligence was filed May 13 in the Santa Monica Division of Superior Court against the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department for the death of Devin Petelski.

Petelski was killed shortly before midnight on Oct. 15, 2009, when a police car traveling at a high rate of speed and allegedly with no lights hit her vehicle. A “black box” in the police car had clocked it at 78 miles per hour. Petelski was beginning to make a right turn from Glyndon Avenue onto Venice Blvd. The speed limit on Venice Blvd. is 40 mph.

According to police, the car had not sent a radio message that it was responding to a crime in progress. The reason for speeding without lights is unknown. However, it seems to be a common practice for officers to engage in “silent running” even though it was prohibited several years ago and the LAPD denies any knowledge of the term.

The lawsuit, by her parents, Ron Petelski and Shaunnah Godfrey, comes after an internal investigation by the LAPD found no wrongdoing on the part of the officers.  Named as defendants are LAPD Officers James Eldridge, the driver, and Ramon Vasquez, a passenger in the squad car.

Petelski, age 25, died a day and a half later from injuries she sustained in the accident.  The case is scheduled to be heard beginning on August 31. Judge Lisa Hart Cole will preside.

Petelski’s parents are represented by Bruce A. Broillet, Timothy J. Wheeler and Geoffrey S. Wells of the Santa Monica law firm of Greene, Broillet & Wheeler.

“In barreling down Venice Boulevard at night without using required lights or sirens,” stated Bruce A. Broillet, “the LAPD’s conduct was not only negligent, but careless and reckless as well.  The LAPD’s failure to follow proper procedures exponentially increased the odds of putting a member of the general public in harm’s way.  So very sadly for Devin’s parents, it was their daughter who became the victim of the LAPD’s utter disregard for public safety.  In seeking justice on behalf of Devin Petelski, we have filed this lawsuit to hold the LAPD accountable for its actions.”

“Devin Petelski died a senseless death,” said Lawyer Wells, “all because the LAPD was driving too fast in the middle of the night without using required lights or sirens.  Yet, if the LAPD had its way, they’d place all the blame on an innocent bystander in order to exonerate themselves from any wrongdoing.”

Petelski had just left her job as a counselor at the Clearview Treatment Programs down the street on Glyndon. Police initially claimed she was drunk, however, no alcohol was found in her blood. The driver of the other car was not tested.

After her death, Petelski’s heart, kidneys and liver were donated to needy recipients.

There are two Beachhead articles about the incident, “Murder on Venice Blvd.” and an eyewitness account. They may be found at http://freevenicebeachhead.wordpress.com/2009/11.

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