The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 4, 2013

Hit-and-run driver accelerated onto L.A. boardwalk

LOS ANGELES — The driver parked outside a hotel and surveyed the leisurely summer scene at the Venice Beach boardwalk: Hundreds of people were sitting at cafes, walking along the seashore or shopping at vendors selling jewelry or art.

Then, according to surveillance video, the man got into a large black car, steered around a vehicle barrier and accelerated mercilessly through the crowd, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way.

Saturday's hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others who only a moment earlier had been enjoying an afternoon near the beach at the height of vacation season.

A couple of hours later, authorities arrested a man on suspicion of murder after he walked into a police station in neighboring Santa Monica and said he was involved.

Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, of Los Angeles, remained jailed Sunday on $1 million bail.

Police declined to discuss a motive but Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said there was no indication that the attack was a terrorist act or that anyone else was involved.

By the time it was over, the driver had covered about a quarter of a mile along the boardwalk before fleeing. The entire incident was over in minutes.

Mustafa Balci, 44, and his wife Yesim Balci, 48, were sitting in lawn chairs at their booth on Saturday, as they had daily for the last three years when they saw a large black sedan roaring directly toward them from a side street.

Three people were knocked to the ground and within seconds the car was at their booth. It swerved left, sideswiping a picnic table holding their wares — the traditional Turkish blue glassware of the eye to ward off the evil eye, and wall hangings of Jesus and Virgin Mary tapestries.

The car hit three customers looking at the items, and slammed into Mustafa Balci's knees pushing him backward, breaking a table, smashing a mirror and scattering everything. Yesim Balci was flung 8 feet, tumbling backward and landing facedown.

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