Los Angeles – US police officers will take the stand on Wednesday
after witnesses from around the world testified in several languages about the
terror they felt when a black sedan ploughed through a crowd last year on the
Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, killing an Italian newlywed.
Nancy Martinez, 28, sat in a wheelchair and wore a back
brace as she tearfully recounted the rampage through a Spanish interpreter on Tuesday.
She said the Dodge Avenger slammed into her back, turning a cheerful summer
evening into a scene of pain and death.
"It threw me," Martinez said. "I
The preliminary hearing for Nathan Campbell, 38, was
expected to end close on Wednesday after the police testify. Then a judge will
decide whether there is enough evidence for Campbell to stand trial on charges
of murder, assault and hit-and-run in the 3 August tragedy. He has pleaded not
Most witnesses in the hearing so far said they had not
been able to see the driver, but Kevin Salveson identified Campbell as the man
behind the wheel.
"I saw part of his face and he was smiling,"
Salveson said on Tuesday. "I saw that he didn't have any remorse - smiling
like he enjoyed what he had done."
Prosecutors contend that Campbell, a transient from
Colorado, intentionally drove onto a sidewalk to bypass barrier posts and
targeted vendor booths and pedestrians at the tourist spot, ploughing into them
at speeds of up to 56 km/h.
Killed was Alice Gruppioni, 32, from Bologna, Italy, who
was on her honeymoon.
Both sides agreed to a stipulation Tuesday detailing the
injuries that killed Gruppioni. The coroner's report entered in evidence showed
that she died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck, and multiple skull
fractures killed her before she reached the hospital.
Sixteen others were injured.
Public defender Philip Dube has said Campbell was
"profoundly depressed" after the incident and he did not
intentionally try to hit anybody. Dube has called it a horrible accident.
John Drolette said he was in an upstairs motel room
overlooking the boardwalk when he heard a car engine revving, then saw the
driver crash into an automatic teller machine and knock over several vendors'
The motorist struck a woman and kept going with her on
the car's hood until she finally was flung off, Drolette said.
Mustafa Balci said he and his wife were inside their tent
when the car ploughed into both of them.
"I thought, 'It's going to stop.' But it
didn't," he said.