Cops In Fatal Crash Were Speeding, But Only Slightly

An investigation into the collision last month between a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser and a young woman who died concluded that the officer behind the wheel was speeding, but only slightly.

The "black-and-white" was going between 41 and 45 miles per hour in a 40 45-maximum-speed zone on Venice Boulevard when it skidded into the 1995 BMW sedan of 25-year-old Devin Petelski. She died two days later. The officer's speed was reasonable and legal given the clear, traffic-free conditions that night, argues the City Attorney's office.

"At midnight with no traffic, then 50 or 55 theoretically could be safe," assistant City Attorney Bob Pulone told LA Weekly Wednesday. "You have to look at the existing circumstances."

(Of course, the last time we told that to a judge, she laughed, but you get the idea: It would be hard to find traffic on that stretch of Venice Boulevard, near Venice High School, moving at less than 45 miles per hour).

The conclusion about the officer's speed was the result of a skid-mark analysis. Pulone said the investigation, conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department's own Specialized Collision Investigation Division, found that the patrol car was traveling with its headlights on but without emergency lights flashing.

Pulone told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday night that the officers in the vehicle were not responding to a burglary in-progress call, as previously believed. Traffic Det. Jesse Ravega, however, told the Weekly they "were responding to back a unit handling a burglar-there-now -- what we call a hot prowl."

That would be a high-priority call for cops, and it raises the question of whether or not the officers were racing to a call without their lights and sirens on. Such practice, while "out-of-policy" for the LAPD, is not that unusual, as even Ravega admits.

Friends of Petelski, whose family has hired an attorney, say the officers were "silent running" -- without proper lights -- to a crime in progress. Pulone told LA Weekly that Petelski could have, in fact, violated two rules by possibly running a stop sign at Glyndon Avenue and then failing to yield the right of way to the patrol car.

"You're possibly looking at two different vehicle code violations," he said, "failure to stop and failure to yield."


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