Why are drivers of luxury cars in Los Angeles involved in a bloody binge of hit-and-run driving, leaving innocent victims for dead? Are rich folk out of their minds? This is felony manslaughter, not "oops."
The city is offering a $50,000 reward to help find the driver of a silver or white Mercedes Benz M-Class SUV who struck bicyclist David Granados in the San Fernando Valley in broad daylight on March 24, throwing his body 200 feet. The popular student was about to graduate from Grant High School. Instead, he is the latest fatality in L.A.'s horrific hit-and-run epidemic. Chief Charlie Beck has been ordered by the City Council and Police Commission to explain what's gone haywire:
Mercedes Benz SUV:
Granados, 18, was run down on Oxnard Street in front of witnesses. A fuzzy security video suggests the driver was "an older male," says LAPD. The family is raising money for the boy's funeral on Facebook at Alexander Granados Memorial Fundraiser Page.
Police say that unlicensed drivers, many of them undocumented immigrants, probably make up a large number of hit-and-run drivers because they fear they will be more harshly punished due to their status.
But we've noticed a pretty major "Luxury Car Jerks" component, a label LAPD is welcome to borrow from us to use as a subcategory in the department's woefully incomplete hit-and-run crime database:
White BMW 328i:
A driver described by police as Middle Eastern or white, mid-30s, rammed a bicyclist with his white BMW 328i in Beverly Hills on April 3 after the biker and driver exchanged angry words, then the bicyclist punched the driver in his face. The BMW then followed the cyclist down an alley in the 9000 block of Wilshire Boulevard, where he used his pricey BMW as a lethal weapon, ramming the cyclist against a metal dumpster. The cyclist was extremely lucky, receiving only minor injuries.
Here's video footage of the ugly incident:
Peter Murphy, lead singer of Bauhaus:
Perhaps Peter Murphy's ride doesn't count as a luxury vehicle, but the famed rocker makes this list due to his celebrity. Murphy allegedly rear-ended his Subaru Forester into a Mercedes Benz in Glendale on March 16, then fled. A motorist chased him down -- just another citizen doing the job of the police. Just another high-profile celeb dodging a five-O. Did we mention Murphy was allegedly carrying meth? Police say he was caught trying to discard the drugs -- someplace inside the police unit (great hiding spot, Murphy).
Black Mercedes SUV:
A man and woman were crossing Selma Boulevard in Hollywood on February 26 when both were hit by a black Mercedes SUV heading westbound. The man suffered a shattered leg and the woman's foot was injured. The driver of the SUV has not been found.
A young, good-looking, fit man in a black BMW mowed down and critically injured jewelry designer Marie Hardwick, 24, as she left an exhibit at LACMA late the night of March 25, 2012. The BMW driver locked eyes with Hardwick as she legally crossed Wilshire Boulevard, slammed into her -- and left her badly maimed on the pavement. As the Weekly has reported, Hardwick is gamely recovering from a vicious crime that left her with broken knee caps, severed tendons and shattered facial bones. LAPD barely investigated, failing even to collect and preserve evidence -- the guy's shattered side-view mirror, for example. The black BMW driver was never caught.
In November of 2010, Ryan Bowman of Venice, whose Australian-based business Zeal Entertainment helped produce Girls Gone Wild videos, slammed into and killed Lauren Freeman with his charcoal gray Bentley. The pretty young blond was responsibly hailing a cab in front of the Roxy in West Hollywood when the force of the Bentley threw her across the road. Bowman raced off, later abandoning his luxury wheels near La Cienega and Melrose.
Bowman later surrendered to the West Hollywood Sheriff's station, but he'd already evaded cops long enough to evade any telltale DUI findings by blood and urine tests. So under the screwy judicial system, because it could not be proved he was drunk or high, Bowman got off lightly. He was sent to Seal Beach Detention Center, a posh jail with a "newly renovated kitchen, library, commissary, inmate programs and in-room cable television with a movie library." Freeman's bereaved parents sued Bowman in civil court and settled for an undisclosed amount.
On May 19, 2009, a gray Jaguar ran down widely known SoCal bicyclist Don Ward as he rode along Glendale Boulevard near Griffith Park in Echo Park. Ward's body careened off the Jaguar hood, and was catapulted 50 feet. His bike was crushed. Glenn Gritzner rolled slowly by, then shot away from the scene. But Ward, laying on the pavement, saw the Jaguar's plate number and kept repeating the first six digits, which he reported to police that night. When Ward got out of the hospital the next day, he called LAPD to find out if they'd caught the driver, and was informed it would take LAPD two weeks just to "run down the plate." Ward's lawyer asked a friend at the California Highway Patrol to run the plate, and CHP did so, identifying Gritzner as the car owner -- in five minutes.
It turns out that Gritzner is a high-profile director of Mercury Public Affairs -- a powerhouse lobbying firm with political friends at the highest levels of influence in California. Gritzner also reviews DTLA bars online for fun. Realizing LAPD was useless, Ward and his friends did their own sleuthing, calling local shops most likely to repair ritzy Jaguars. They almost instantly located the damaged Jaguar -- at Rusnak in Pasadena, where it was getting body work and paint. Ward sued Gritzner in civil court and settled for an undisclosed sum. But because Gritzner evaded capture long enough to make blood and urine DUI tests pointless, he got a slap on the wrist from a judge in criminal court. Did Gritzner fail to help Ward because he'd had a few drinks downtown? Nobody but Gritzner knows.
Last November, Simone Wilson's L.A. Weekly article, "L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic," revealed that of the 20,000 or so total vehicle crashes in Los Angeles each year, a staggering 42 percent to 50 percent are hit-and-runs. Nationally, according to a study by AAA, that figure is only 11 percent.
Sick stuff. Outrageous stuff.
It is up to LAPD to find the perps who careen through the city at the wheel of metal objects weighing thousands of pounds.
It is believed that hit-and-run drivers kill more than 100 people a year in L.A., and injure and maim several hundred others -- mostly pedestrians and bicyclists. Chief Beck, and Chief William Bratton before him, don't know for sure, because they never bothered to keep detailed track.
As Wilson revealed in her Weekly cover story, violent hit-and-runs are investigated by LAPD more like unfortunate misdemeanors -- with little urgency or resources. That's why some victims track and find the bastards themselves.
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Now Beck is playing catch up. An LAPD report is due to be released soon.
This leads to the question, Why are probably well-insured and wealthy drivers of Mercedes Benzes, Jaguar and BMWs striking down bikers, pedestrians and other motorists, then failing to stop and render aid?
Do these people feel that having a luxury car, status or power puts them above the law and the shared moral code?
Or are a lot of them trying to avoid blood and urine tests after happy hour, unwilling to pay the cost of hurting others while DUI?