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Venice Boardwalk Hit-and-Run Suspect Allegedly on Methamphetamine During Fatal Crash

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By Paul Chavez, Venice Dispatch

A board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council on Tuesday said the 38-year-old Colorado man accused of killing an Italian woman and injuring 16 others in the Venice Beach boardwalk hit-and-run earlier this month was on methamphetamine at the time of the incident.

The revelation was made by board member Sevan Gerard, a firefighter and paramedic at Los Angeles Fire Department Station #63 in Venice, during a discussion on a public safety motion in response to the Aug. 3 fatal hit-and-run.

Gerard, a member of the Public Health & Safety Committee, said community feedback regarding the incident quickly shifted from providing public protection with traffic bollards to the more complex, deeper issues that contributed to the tragic incident.

The fatal Venice Beach boardwalk crash on Aug. 3, 2013 was captured on surveillance and cell phone cameras. (Photo credit: Snapchat/Twitter)

The fatal Venice Beach boardwalk crash on Aug. 3, 2013 was captured on surveillance and cell phone cameras. (Photo credit: Snapchat/Twitter)

The public safety committee has held several meetings since the hit-and-run that killed 32-year-old Italian newlywed Alice Gruppionni, who was visiting Venice on her honeymoon when she was fatally struck in the attack that also injured her husband.

The number one issue addressed at meetings was the rising use of methamphetamine in Venice that has become an epidemic in the past few months, Gerard said.

“From personal experience at the fire station as a paramedic, not a day has gone by where we have not responded to a meth-related incident,” Gerard said.

Gerard said that on several occassions he has spent 30 to 45 minutes fighting for his safety and on behalf of his colleagues in the back of an ambulance with extremely violent people on the drug.

“As far as the incident, it still has yet to be officially confirmed on paper, but the perpetrator was on methamphetamine at the time of the event,” Gerard said.

A message left with Campbell’s public defender Philip Dube was not immediately returned. A call seeking comment from Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila, who is prosecuting the case, also was not immediately returned.

Community members wanted the meth problem to be placed at the forefront of boardwalk safety issues, rather than the installation of physical barriers to keep vehicles off the pedestrian thoroughfare, Gerard said.

“We have a responsibility to tackle this meth issue head-on and figure out a way to get this out of Venice and get people the help they need as well,” Gerard said.

The council’s board voted 14-1-3 in favor of a motion presented by Gerard request the city to maintain temporary traffic control bollards at key intersections along Ocean Front Walk to deter cars from driving on the boardwalk.

The motion requested the flexible bollards remain in place until several of the council’s committees can plan and propose a long-term solution.

The board also voted 17-0-1 to ask the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division to re-evaluate its current policing strategy for the Venice Beach boardwalk.

Some community members said they wanted a higher police presence on the popular boardwalk and the motion asked for the LAPD to consider mobile and stationary policing options.

The meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary School drew about 40 people and started with a heartfelt moment of silence in memory of Gruppioni.

Campbell turned himself in shortly after the incident and has been charged with one count of murder and 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run. He remains in jail with bail set at $1.48 million.

Alice Gruppioni was struck and killed Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, by a hit-and-run driver on the Venice Beach boardwalk while visiting on her honeymoon. (Photo credit: Facebook)

Alice Gruppioni was struck and killed Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, by a hit-and-run driver on the Venice Beach boardwalk while visiting on her honeymoon. (Photo credit: Facebook)

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