Gardena Police Pulled Over Bicyclists As They Sought Answers for Lethal Hit-and-Run

Gardena Police Pulled Over Bicyclists As They Sought Answers for Lethal Hit-and-Run
Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

Bicyclist Benjamin Torres was killed in a hit-and-run collision last October in Gardena, and his friends and family wanted to know about the status of the police investigation. So as they rode together last week in solidarity to Gardena City Hall, guess what the cops do? Yeah, they pulled them over.

"I was in disbelief," says Danny Gamboa, a documentary filmmaker and bicyclist who was one of the people involved in the July 10 incident. The police "pulled us over for no reason."

While the police were wasting time handing out tickets, Torres's killer remains at large.

Gamboa was riding with members of Torres' family and the group United Riders when they got yanked off the street only a few blocks from Gardena City Hall.

The bicyclists were already having problems with the installation of a "ghost bike," a white bike that's erected in the memory of a bicyclist who's been killed. Gamboa, who's making a documentary about ghost bikes with his partner Kat Jarvis, says city officials removed the bike from a memorial site.

Also, says Gamboa, "the police department themselves haven't done all that much" to find Torres' killer.

So bicycling advocates had set up a meeting with Gardena City Manager Mitchell Lansdell to find out what the police were doing to get justice for Benjamin Torres and his family -- and to find out why the city removed the ghost bike.

Suspiciously, the riders, who had legally taken over a street lane, were pulled over by police for impeding traffic just before they met with Lansdell.

L.A. Streestblog has a video of the whacked out encounter.

"We're entitled to be in that lane," says Gamboa. The police "didn't know the law."

He adds that police then "searched us without asking for permission. They frisked us and looked through our stuff."

When the riders were released, they proceeded to their City Hall meeting, which Gardena police chief Ed Medrano also attended. Gamboa and the riders told Lansdell and Medrano what had just taken place.

The police chief "acted like he didn't know what happened," says Gamboa. "It was ridiculous."

Still, says Gamboa, Lansdell was "very receptive" to the riders' cause of finding Torres' killer, but now they're waiting to see if the city manager's words will be matched by his actions. Medrano, says Gamboa, said police are still conducting an investigation, but don't have many leads.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.


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