Fatal LAPD crash raises questions

A neighbor photographed the aftermath of a crash shortly after midnight Oct. 16 in Venice that led to the death of a 25-year-old woman.
A neighbor photographed the aftermath of a crash shortly after midnight Oct. 16 in Venice that led to the death of a 25-year-old woman.
Jeanelle Lee

Friends of a woman who died of injuries she received in a crash with a Los Angeles police patrol car were expected to gather for a vigil at the crash site tonight at 8 p.m.

Christopher Medak, a family spokesman, and others question the actions of the police and what they describe as a slow paramedic response.

A police spokesman familiar with the accident could not be reached Monday afternoon.

Devin Petelski, 25, of Brentwood, was driving home minutes after midnight Friday from the treatment center where she worked as a substance abuse counselor when she was hit by the police car.

A police statement issued Friday said she stopped at the Glyndon Avenue stop sign, then pulled into the intersection to turn right onto Venice Boulevard.

That’s when the police car heading east on Venice hit the driver’s side of her BMW.

She died Sunday after doctors at UCLA Medical Center took her off life support, Medak said.

The LAPD Pacific Division police officer driving the other car suffered a broken right arm and a serious cut to his left arm. The officer who was a passenger in the patrol car suffered cuts and bruises, according to the police statement. Their names were not released.

Residents who live near where the crash occurred said they heard neither sirens nor brakes before the crash, only the sound of the police car hitting Petelski’s.

“Moments before the crash I heard the acceleration of an engine roaring up Venice Boulevard, and then I heard the impact,” Bonnie Wolfe wrote in an e-mail to KPCC.

Wolfe, who lives near the crash site, said a city bus she saw parked at the curb might have obscured the two drivers’ views of each others’ vehicles.

Medak said he spoke with a woman who was driving behind the police car and saw the crash. The police car was flashing its emergency lights as it drove on Lincoln Boulevard, but the lights were apparently switched off when the car turned onto Venice, the witness, Krysta Ohle, told him.

“Yet they maintained the same emergency response speed, in excess of 60 mph,” Medak said.

Witnesses said it took as much as 15 minutes for city paramedics to arrive.

Medak described Petelski as a woman who, after struggling with alcoholism, had been sober for two years and was dedicated to helping others recover.

“This was one of those rare individuals,” said Medak.

Petelski, the daughter of Ron Petelski and Shaunnah Godfrey, grew up in Brentwood and attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica. She attended Northwestern University and more recently UC Santa Barbara, pursuing a degree in communications, Medak said. She is also survived by her brother Michael.

A memorial service for Petelski is set for 2 p.m. Friday at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, 12000 W. San Vicente Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Tuesday update: Los Angeles Police detective Jesse Ravega, who is investigating the crash for the West Traffic Division said it occurred at 11:55 p.m. Thursday.

The police officer who was driving the patrol car sustained a broken hand, not arm, he said, quoting an updated press statement dated today.

He declined to say why the officers were driving on Venice Blvd., or to say what speed, lights or siren were being used at the time of the crash because an investigation is continuing. He asked witnesses who have details to share to contact him at (213) 473-0236.