Chief Beck defends LAPD in car crash that killed woman in Venice

Petelski accident scene Oct. 16, 2009 on Venice Blvd. at Glyndon Ave.
Petelski accident scene Oct. 16, 2009 on Venice Blvd. at Glyndon Ave.
Mary Logan

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Wednesday addressed concerns that officers in Venice were driving with their lights off last month when they smashed into another car, killing a 25-year-old woman.

On blogs and in vigils, friends and relatives of Devin Petelski accuse LAPD officers of engaging in something they call "silent running" – or driving without headlights at night - when they hit Petelski as she pulled her car onto Venice Boulevard.

“I’ve been a cop for 32 years. I don’t know what they’re talking about," said Beck in an interview with KPCC. "This is something that’s pulled off an Internet site that is not a policy of the Los Angeles Police Department.”

Beck says that in rare cases, cops turn out their headlights as they approach a crime in progress.

A friend of Petelski’s says witnesses saw the cop car’s headlights off moments before the crash.

Beck said the headlights were smashed in the crash. But he said a preliminary report that examined the lights' heat following the crash indicates that officers had their lights on. He said the report also found they were traveling at a safe speed.

“People have to understand that we cannot fix this tragedy," said Beck. "This is an awful thing that has happened to a young woman and the two police officers that were involved in the accident.”

Beck says a department investigation into the incident continues.