SM COURTHOUSE — The parents of a young woman killed after being struck by a Los Angeles police cruiser are suing the department and the officers involved.
The parents of Devin Leigh Petelski, 25, on Thursday filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica alleging negligence. Petelski was killed Oct. 15, 2009 when her car was struck by a police patrol car that allegedly had neither its flashing lights or siren on as it sped to a burglary call shortly before midnight. She died two days later at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center.
Petelski, who graduated from Crossroads High School in Santa Monica and studied communications at UC Santa Barbara, was a substance abuse counselor at the time of her death.
“Devin Petelski died a senseless death, all because the LAPD was driving too fast in the middle of the night without using required lights or sirens,” said Geoffrey Wells, an attorney with Santa Monica-based law firm Greene, Broillet and Wheeler, which represented victims of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market crash in their suit against City Hall.
“Yet, if the LAPD had its way, they’d place all the blame on an innocent bystander in order to exonerate themselves from any wrongdoing,” Wells added. “That’s unacceptable … .”
Wells claims the on-board computer in the police cruiser revealed that the vehicle was traveling at a speed far in excess of the posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour. A black box that keeps track of accelerations, speed and braking reportedly shows that Officer Eldridge jammed the accelerator to the floor just 18 seconds before the impact. The black box shows explosive acceleration with the police car rocketing down Venice Boulevard at nearly 80 mph. At 78 mph, Officer Eldridge slams on the brakes and just four seconds later — impact.
Representatives with the LAPD said they could not comment on the incident because there is a lawsuit pending.
The officers involved in the crash — Ramon Vasquez and James Eldridge — didn’t notify dispatchers that they were heading to a burglary-in-progress call, police investigators told the L.A. Times.
The crash occurred in the intersection of Glyndon Avenue and Venice Boulevard.
Many nearby residents were outraged and held a candlelight march from the accident site to the LAPD’s Pacific Division, and created a Facebook page to seek witnesses to the crash.
“Ron and I have filed this lawsuit because we want the public to learn the truth about Devin’s death and because we don’t want to see any other family go through such a horrific tragedy,” said Petelski’s mother, Shaunnah Godfrey. “Our earth angel Devin is now in heaven, but her death is a harsh reality that I will never be able to totally accept.”
After her death, Petelski’s heart, kidneys and liver were donated through OneLegacy, family members said.