Driver in Venice Boardwalk Crash Pleads Not Guilty to Murder, Other Charges

The LA City Council was focusing on safety improvements at the boardwalk before charges were announced

Three days after a car plowed into a crowd at Venice Beach in California, killing one woman and injuring 16 others, the driver pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and 33 other felony charges.

Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon at the Los Angeles Airport Courthouse for allegedly intentionally driving his car onto the Venice Boardwalk on Saturday, killing an Italian woman in California on her honeymoon.

Campbell was charged with murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run.

The complaint includes the special allegation of use of a deadly weapon -- a car, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Full coverage: Venice Beach Boardwalk Tragedy

The prosecutor was expected to ask that bail be set at $1.48 million. Campbell faces up to life in prison if convicted.

His public defender, Philip Dube, said Campbell is originally from Georgia and has worked in construction, at restaurants and as an auto mechanic. Dube said Cambell is extremely distraught.

Campbell turned himself in at a Santa Monica police station about two hours after the rampage, which began around 6 p.m. Saturday.

He was booked into the Los Angeles Police Department's Metropolitan Detention Center on suspicion of murder early Sunday morning.

The suspect, described by the LAPD as a homeless man from Colorado, was driving a dark blue 2008 Dodge Avenger when he alleged purposefully aimed  the vehicle down Dudley Avenue at the crowded Venice Boardwalk, causing panic at the seaside destination.

Surveillance video taken by businesses in the area showed chaos after the crash. At least three beach-side vendors were struck by the car and people ran screaming from the vehicle, which turned up a side street and fled the scene. The car was found abandoned a little over a mile away.

Alice Gruppioni, 32, was killed in the crash.

"There's no words to describe our situation, our love," said her husband, Christian Casadei, who received minor injuries.

Her aunt said that Alice Gruppioni did not travel as much as the rest of the family but that visiting California had been a dream for her.

"She was robbed of her life while living her dream visit to California with her husband," Katia Gruppioni, her aunt, said in a text message. "This was a tremendous injustice. Alice was a remarkable young lady making her personal dreams come true."

Meanwhile Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimoulsy approved an emergency motion requesting a study of enhancing public safety along the famed boardwalk in part by restricting vehicle access.

The motion, approved unanimously, calls for the immediate installation of temporary barriers at “hazardous intersections” along Ocean Front Walk.

Venice-area Councilman Mike Bonin, just entering his second month on the council, said the emergency measure was in response to Saturday’s "horrible tragedy."

The boardwalk receives more than 100,000 visitors a day on its busiest weekends, Bonin noted in his motion.

"Ensuring safety at one of Los Angeles' most popular attractions is paramount, and this incident has called into question the adequacy of the current safety measures," Bonin's motion stated.

The motion calls on police, fire, the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Bureau of Street Services, the Department of Transportation and other city officials to report back in two weeks on “public safety needs” at the boardwalk.

“I don't want something sitting on a shelf or being studied forever,” Bonin said before the vote. “These are common-sense things.''

He said improvements need not have a fortress-like appearance, but can use planters or artwork to separate traffic and pedestrians.

Measures such as “retractable, removable, lockable posts or bollards” could be used in in areas that must be accessed by emergency vehicles.

Bonin also wants the report to consider requests from the LAPD and the city's fire department, including a public address system that would allow first responders to communicate with crowds during emergencies, and video cameras to monitor criminal activity.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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