Officers Testify About Encounter With Suspect After Venice Boardwalk Crash

Nathan Campbell is charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run driving

A police officer testified Wednesday at a prelimary hearing that he could smell alcohol on the breath of a man charged with murder in an August crash on the Venice Beach boardwalk that killed one person and injured 17 others.

The officer and seven others testified in the case involving Nathan Campbell, which was recessed until Jan. 2 when attorneys might make final arguments. A judge will then decide whether Campbell, 38, should stand trial on 37 counts.

Campbell is charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run driving.

Testimony Wednesday provided insight into Campbell's actions after the Aug. 3 crash. He parked his Dodge Avenger on a Santa Monica street just blocks from the boardwalk, walked to a police station and told officers he drank vodka after the crash, according to authorities.

"You could smell the odor of alcohol coming from his person and his breath," Los Angeles police Sgt. Benjamin Zucker said. "In my opinion, there was something else besides the alcohol in his system."

The judge declined to immediately enter into evidence a blood-alcohol test, but the results showed he had double the legal limit of .08 in his system.

Campbell's public defender described the crash as an accident. He asked Zucker whether Campbell cooperative with investigators.

"He said he drank vodka after the accident," Zucker testified.

Prosecutors contend that Campbell, a transient from Colorado, intentionally drove onto a sidewalk to bypass barrier posts and targeted vendor booths and pedestrians, plowing into them at speeds of up to 35 mph.

Campbell was "profoundly depressed" after the incident and did not intentionally try to hit anybody, according to his public defender.

A detective testified about his interview with the newlywed husband of an Italian woman killed in the crash. Alice Gruppioni, 32, died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck, and multiple skull fractures, according to a coroner's report entered into evidence.

Los Angeles police Detective Robert Riske said her husband told him he heard the car approach from behind and grabbed his wife. They tried to run, but was separated from her.

He saw his wife on the ground minutes later, Riske testified.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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