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L.A.'s Venice Beach community reels after deadly car rampage

A makeshift memorial stands on the Venice Beach boardwalk for Alice Gruppioni, a tourist on her honeymoon from Bologna, Italy, who was kille
A makeshift memorial stands on the Venice Beach boardwalk for Alice Gruppioni, a tourist on her honeymoon from Bologna, Italy, who was kille

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The seaside community of Venice Beach was still reeling on Monday after a man plowed a car through a crowd at the boardwalk, killing an Italian woman on her honeymoon and injuring 11 others, and police identified the driver as a transient with no strong ties to Southern California.

Nathan Campbell, 38, was arrested late on Saturday. Police said he abandoned the car blocks from the scene of the carnage and walked to a police station in the adjacent community of Santa Monica. He was booked on suspicion of murder and could face formal charges as early as Tuesday.

Witnesses have said it appeared the driver had been aiming for pedestrians on Saturday when he steered down the popular oceanfront walkway in Venice at speeds up to 20 miles per hour while people screamed and ran.

Security camera footage aired on ABC News showed the driver of the dark-colored Dodge Avenger parking across from a cafe and getting out. In the video, he scans the area, then gets in the car and drives into the throng before backing up and driving toward another group of people.

Police have said little about what might have motivated the rampage at a top Southern California tourist destination, but Los Angeles Police spokesman Andrew Neiman said that Campbell made incriminating statements to officers in Santa Monica.

"Sometime later after he drove away he did turn himself into the Santa Monica Police Department. That's where we caught up with him," Neiman said. "He said something that prompted Santa Monica officers to contact us, and we responded."

Neiman declined to elaborate on Campbell's statements or other evidence while the investigation was underway.

VIGIL PLANNED

Neiman said Campbell, who was being held on $1 million bail, did not have long-term ties to Venice Beach or the Los Angeles area, describing him as a transient who has previously lived in Colorado.

At the boardwalk, a patchwork of street vendors, souvenir shops, restaurants and sporting areas in one of the city's quirkiest neighborhoods, flowers and cards were left at the scene where 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni was killed and 11 others injured. Police identified Gruppioni as a tourist from Italy who was spending her honeymoon in California.

Dennis Walker, general manager of the Candle Cafe & Grill on the boardwalk, said stunned and dismayed employees there were organizing a vigil for Monday night to remember Gruppioni and the injured.

"One of our vendors and one of our regular guests got injured," Walker said. "I have two servers working this morning who have been here 19 and 12 years respectively. This is a very close-knit community."

Walker said security cameras from the restaurant captured part of the incident and, in his mind, made it clear that the driver drove into crowds on the boardwalk "meticulously and intentionally."

Meanwhile a Los Angeles City Council member, Mike Bonin, said he would seek to have barricades put in place to restrict car access to the boardwalk.

"While most of the streets that run into Ocean Front Walk are unimpeded, the site of last night's horrible tragedy actually had four bollards blocking the street, but apparently the assailant sped right around them, over the sidewalk and into the crowd," Bonin said in a Facebook post.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)

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