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Art Walk Accident Downtown Takes Life of 2-Month-Old Boy

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Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 1:41 PM

click to enlarge Patrons of Art Walk Thursday. - @AMIERINGO
  • @amieringo
  • Patrons of Art Walk Thursday.
See our piece about a movement to close the streets downtown for Art Walk here. First posted at 11:04 p.m. Thursday.

An accident during downtown L.A.'s monthly Art Walk Thursday night took the life of a 2-month-old infant boy and appeared to have put his mom in a hospital, according to authorities and reports.

It happened about 9:15 p.m. at Spring and Fourth streets, police said. Reports vary about how it happened, with City News Service stating that two cars collided and one of those vehicles hit the victims and CBS2 reporting that the driver of a Cadillac lost control during a parallel parking maneuver.

That station says ...

... the mom was in pretty bad shape at a hospital. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott stated that the female victim was in "fair condition," however.


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The driver of the Cadillac wasn't arrested, according to CBS2.

Added: Blogdowntown reports that a parking meter hit by the Cadillac outside the El Dorado Lofts might have been what struck the mother and her child.

The site says that as many as a half dozen other people might have been injured.

The car's driver, about 22-years-old, is said to have passed initial DUI investigations and doesn't appear to have been under the influence of anything.

click to enlarge Art Walk patrons flooded the street at Fourth and Main during Art Walk Thursday night. - JANSONE
  • Jansone
  • Art Walk patrons flooded the street at Fourth and Main during Art Walk Thursday night.

Update: LAPD Officer M. Lisenby of the Central Traffic Division told the Weekly late Thursday this is how police think the accident happened:

The vehicle was southbound on Spring and they were attempting to park along the curb. The driver, while trying to park, lost control, jumped the curb, hit pedestrians and in the process hit the mother and her infant in a stroller.

The driver, she said, "was not under the influence and stayed at the scene." The man was not in custody, but the "investigation is still ongoing," Lisenby said.

She said it's possible others were injured but that this aspect of the story is not clear at this point.

"There was a large gathering there for Art Walk with 100 pedestrians on the sidewalk, so it's conceivable" others were injured, she said.

The driver "first hit the meter then (the car) went onto the sidewalk," Lisenby said, but it was the car rather than the meter that hit the victims, police believe.

Added: STERLINGDAVISPHOTO has posted some pictures of the aftermath to Flickr.

Also, some Weekly readers describe what they saw in the comments section below.

Update No. 2: LAPD Central Division Lt. Paul Vernon was at the scene and tweeted the driver of the Cadillac is a 22-year-old from Ladera Heights.

It apparently happened as about 35 food trucks had amassed in the area to serve Art Walk patrons.

Some Weekly commenters (below) say they witnessed the tragedy, with one saying that the baby's siblings were crying as the infant was taken away by paramedics. One said the driver was going fast; another said crowd members might have prevented him from leaving.

One commenter wonders why the street wasn't shut down with so many pedestrians around. Some have criticized the event in the past for getting too big and, possibly, unruly.

Update No. 3: Three police officials, including Central Division Lt. Vernon, Central Traffic Division Sgt. Jeffrey Siggers, and LAPD Media Relations Officer Richard French say the baby died, with Siggers saying the death came overnight. (Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and City News Service reported this morning that the infant was clinging to life).

"What happened it was surviving ...," says French. "Just before 2 a.m. the child did die from the injuries in the accident."

Four people, including a police officer who rushed to the scene right after the baby was hit, and the baby's 28-year-old mother, sustained minor injuries, police said.

The officer was taken on a backboard by paramedics to a hospital to get checked out, said Vernon.

Vernon said the driver was trying to parallel park nose first when the vehicle went forward, jumping the curb, hitting a parking meter, and striking the baby, its mother and a few other people.

The driver is "moving forward into the parking space, hits the gas, goes up on sidewalk hits the baby and others, and on-duty officer is running up behind, and the guy puts it in reverse and hits officer, who sustained minor scrapes," he said.

It was just an accident, Vernon said, and it doesn't appear that the driver will be cited.

Responding to criticism that perhaps too many people were crowding the street Thursday night, Vernon said he was actually watching the scene from a building as the accident happened. Though he couldn't witness the tragedy from his vantage point, he emphasized that all the victims except for the officer were on the sidewalk.

"It's not related to issues in the street as far as I could see," he said. "While it happened at Art Walk this guy was just trying to paralel park. It was just a tragic accident."

Update No. 4: The infant was identified by coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter as Montebello resident Marcelo Vasquez (he specifically said "one L" in Marcello, but a commenter below and the Los Angeles Times have it as "Marcello"). His age was one month, 25 days, Winter said.

An autopsy is pending.

A commenter (below) says a prayer vigil was scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at the scene of the accident.

Added: A group called Artists Anonymous is encouraging folks to make donations to the family of Vasquez. Info at Facebook. They also posted this photo:

click to enlarge Vasquez. - ARTISTS ANONYMOUS / FACEBOOK
  • Artists Anonymous / Facebook
  • Vasquez.

Update No. 5: LAPD traffic Det. Felix Padilla told the Weekly Monday that it's possible the driver could see a charge of vehicular manslaughter. That would ultimately be up to the District Attorney's office, but the D.A. could send the case to the City Attorney's office, where misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter could be considered.

Padilla confirmed that the 22-year-old had never held a California drivers license. However, that's not the core of his problem: Simply put, he allegedly made an unsafe move that ended someone's life. Thus the possibility of vehicular manslaughter, the detective says.

"He committed an violation of the vehicle code," Padilla says. "It was an unsafe start.

He was trying to park and went up on the sidewalk."

He wouldn't release the driver's name.

The LAPD will likely send its evidence to the D.A. within about two weeks, Padilla said. The driver could face one year in jail or probation -- or both -- if this ends up in court and he's successfully prosecuted.

Update No. 6: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Streetsblog Los Angeles that it would be wrong to blame the success (and crowding) of Art Walk for the tragedy.

It's irresponsible to blame Art Walk for this crash, from what I understand it was a freak accident ...

More.

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

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