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Venice hit-and-run suspect held on suspicion of murder

A man who turned himself in to police following a deadly hit-and-run rampage on the Venice boardwalk remained behind bars Monday morning on suspicion of murder.

Nathan Campbell, 38, abandoned his blue sedan on a nearby street and walked into a police station to turn himself in about an hour after the incident Saturday that left one dead and many injured, police said.

Campbell, a Colorado native who sources said was possibly living in his car, is being held in lieu of $1-million bail. Police said Campbell asked how many people had been injured in the incident.

Witnesses and victims described a scene of confusion and chaos as the blue Dodge sedan tore across the Venice boardwalk.

Mustafa Balci said that when he first saw the car screech around a corner at the boardwalk, he figured a driver had simply become confused and would quickly turn around and leave.

Instead, he said, the vehicle kept moving forward, speeding, hitting a metal trash can, turning a table into flying shards, and storming “like a train” through the tent where he sells handmade pendants.

“If I was sitting a few inches to the left or to the right, I would have died,” Balci said, noting that he was hit by the car and that his wife landed in a nearby patch of grass after being flipped in the air by the vehicle.

Witnesses said Sunday that the car appeared to reach speeds near 60 mph as it moved about a quarter of a mile down the boardwalk — officially called Ocean Front Walk. The driver seemed to go out of his way to hit pedestrians, they said.

“There were thousands of people in the promenade,” said John Drolette, who said he watched the incident from the second-story balcony of the Cadillac Hotel. “He was zigzagging; he did it on purpose.”

Alice Gruppioni, 32, an Italian tourist on her honeymoon, was killed, police and fire officials said. Her husband, Christian Gruppioni, was hospitalized with minor injuries.

A woman whose name has not been released because of privacy laws was listed in serious condition at UCLA Medical Center on Sunday. Four other people, including two women and two men, were treated at the hospital and released. Others injured during the incident suffered minor injuries and were either released or being treated at other area hospitals.

Video taken from a restaurant on narrow Dudley Avenue shows a man believed to be Campbell pacing near a sedan, then getting into the car and driving suddenly forward, out of camera range. Another video shows the moments that followed: the sedan slamming into unsuspecting pedestrians and ramming a canopy before turning left and speeding down Ocean Front Walk at an hour when many were simply waiting to watch the setting sun.

The Dodge first tried to exit through a parking lot but struck a sunglasses stand, onlookers said. It then backed up and found a way out at Park Avenue, a street with no blocking barriers, they said.

Officials said the driver entered Ocean Front Walk by driving the car onto a sidewalk and finding enough space to maneuver past five narrow concrete pylons, a barrier meant to block cars.

Several Venice locals said Sunday that more barriers were needed to keep motorists from deliberately or accidentally entering the boardwalk. Some streets that end at the boardwalk already have barriers, but others do not. A few times a year, cars accidentally turn onto the boardwalk, said Michael Aulberry, a resident for 35 years.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice, agreed that additional barriers were needed. He cautioned that they would have to be installed so that people with disabilities and emergency vehicles could get onto the boardwalk. He also said the issue was complicated because there are parking areas on the beach that can only be reached by driving over the boardwalk at Rose Avenue.

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