By Ruth Fowler
I live at the intersection of Venice Blvd and Glyndon Avenue in Venice Beach. On October 15, I went to bed early – about 11pm. I woke up briefly when I heard a horrific screech of breaks and a terrifying crash – but to be honest, when you live in Venice, you hear this stuff all the goddamn time and you learn not to pay attention to it. I’ve never been in a city so rife with traffic accidents.
Just before 1am, I woke up again as my puppy needed to pee, and when I walked into the living room my roommates were standing there looking shocked and shaken. “How the fuck did you sleep through that?” Rob asked me. “A girl just got killed right outside our apartment.”
We went outside together and a mangled black BMW was sitting inches away from my Mercedes Benz parked on the South-East corner of Venice and Glyndon. My car was covered in glass and detritus, but was otherwise completely, miraculously, untouched. The BMW was completely caved in on the driver’s side, and facing the wrong way. A cop car was on the sidewalk, at the steps to our apartment, smashed against a tree and with a broken sign next to it. Three fire engines were on the opposite side of Venice Blvd, and there were about ten cop cars.
Rob had told me everyone had been ordered off the sidewalk by police and into the apartments when the crash had happened, and only now were they being allowed outside.
I walked down to my car and spoke to a female cop. She said the girl in the BMW was in bad shape and they didn’t know if she was still alive. Perhaps she had been drunk, she said.
The cops had walked out of the car but had been taken to hospital with broken arms and concussion. She didn’t know whose fault it was.
I took some pictures and we hung out on the balcony to our apartment block watching the cops start to arrest a bunch of Mexican guys and lead them away. This confused us. Were they in some way responsible for this horrific crash? What had gone on? Was the driver of the BMW drunk as some of the cops implied? Why had the cop car t-boned the BMW as it eased out from Glyndon Avenue attempting to turn right on Venice?
I took some pictures with my cellphone and eventually went to bed at 3am.
The next morning I found out my friend Krysta had been a passenger in a car traveling right behind the cop car. Her friend Zach had been driving her home. They had seen everything. Krysta said the cop car had been traveling at speed on Lincoln with its lights on, and then had turned onto Venice, turned its lights off but had maintained the same speed – in excess of 50mph – and had veered into the curb lane. It had then t-boned the BMW easing onto Venice Blvd from Glyndon.
Krysta maintained the driver of the BMW had not been at fault. She and Zach had gotten out of the car to assist the girl in the BMW who was unconscious.
Apparently 10 or 12 cop cars then turned up to attend to the cops – but no one attended to the unconscious girl who was still trapped in the BMW, until Krysta started screaming at them.
Zach was an off-duty EMT guy so he gave the girl medical assistance. She could not breathe on her own. It was 10 or 15 minutes after the accident that an ambulance arrived, and according to witnesses, it departed at leisure without its emergency lights on. At this point the girl was still alive but in critical condition.
The story got worse. It turned out the driver of the BMW was a friend of many of my friends. She had been working as a counselor at a recovery center on Glyndon Avenue until late at night. She had left the center, driven down the road, and had then been subject to this horrific accident.
Later that day – I think if I’m correct, on Saturday – the girl’s life support was turned off and she passed away. Four of her organs were successfully used in transplants to save four anonymous people across the US.
The girl’s name was Devin Petelski and she was a 25-year-old Los Angeles native with two years sobriety who helped other addicts in their recovery and was in her last year at Grad school.
Thirty minutes before the accident Devin had been on the phone to her father, who had just told her he had managed to find the money to pay for her last semester of college.
Looking online at the reporting on the accident, I was immediately struck at the discrepancy of the news reports, many of which seemed to imply Devin had been responsible for the accident. None mentioned the speeding cop car with no lights on. No reports mentioned why it took seconds for ten or twelve cop cars to turn up at the scene, but 10 – 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Some reports suggested the cop car was responding to an emergency call – if this was the case, why did it have no lights?
Other reports referred to a bus which had apparently pulled over on Venice Blvd, obscuring Devin’s view as she tried to turn right – but this bus was not noticed by any eye witnesses, nor was it made clear why this bus might have been allowed to leave the scene of such a horrific accident.
Many reports said Devin had gone through a red light at Glyndon, omitting the fact there are no red lights on Glyndon – only a stop sign. Others suggested there was a white van which had driven through the accident scene.
I don’t know what the truth is, but I do know Devin Petelski was a sober, intelligent, beautiful, loving girl who shared many of my good friends here in Venice. Her hospital reports show that she was indeed free of any intoxicants or drugs of any kind at the time of the accident. I know that Glyndon Avenue is full of speed bumps and it’s impossible to build any speed on that road. I know that the way the accident scene looked, it was clear that her car was hit at high velocity by the cop car.
I know that it must be a heartbreaking thing for her family to wonder why that ambulance didn’t arrive sooner, and why an off duty EMT guy who was a civilian witness had to keep their daughter alive while officers from 10 or 12 cop cars attended to the cops in the other car – victims who were luckily able to walk free from their wreckage while Devin could not.
This was a terrible, horrific night for many, and what’s worse is the fear that the LAPD will be unable to carry out a fair and unbiased investigation into the accident. The implications of this can be seen clearly here.
I was outside my apartment block today where many of Devin’s friends, family and loved ones gathered to pay their respects. There was sadness, there was anger, but there was also joy and happiness that their beloved Devin had helped save four people’s lives despite losing her own. I think all any of these people want now is a fair and unbiased investigation into what, exactly, happened that night on Venice Blvd and Glyndon Avenue. Was this a police joyride that went tragically wrong? Is there some kind of strange cover-up going on?
Responses to news reports have been overwhelmingly in agreement that the cops were at fault – though a few unpleasant internet trolls have made their own untrue assumptions.
I have to say, my faith in an institution that is meant to protect the people has been radically shaken since I arrived in America in 2005. Like many people who didn’t know Devin but saw the strange aftermath of this tragedy unfold, and have seen the grief and the pain of those left behind, I would like to know the truth, and I would like to believe that the justice system in this country will uphold the rights of an individual against the establishment when the establishment has acted in error. The people have a right to know the full facts. To know why those random men were being arrested at 1am at the scene of the accident. To know why a speeding cop car – which may or may not have been responding to a call – did not have its lights on. To know why it took so long for an ambulance to attend to an unconscious girl in a critical condition.
If you or anyone you know was a witness to this horrific tragedy, or saw the immediate aftermath of the crash, please email family friend Christopher Medak at [email protected]
Rest in Peace Devin. I’m sorry I never got the opportunity to meet you. Thank you for touching so many lives while you were living, and after you have passed.