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Colorado man charged in Venice Boardwalk hit-and-run

Hit-and-run driver plows into Venice Beach Boardwalk	

Venice Beach, California A hit-and-run driver plowed into the crowd
Hit-and-run driver plows into Venice Beach Boardwalk Venice Beach, California A hit-and-run driver plowed into the crowd on the Venice Beach Boardwalk intentionally Saturday, August 3, 2013, hitting 12 people […] Credit: Maarten Smitskamp

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A 38-year-old man was charged today with murder and other felony counts for allegedly intentionally driving his car into crowds of people on the Venice Boardwalk, killing a honeymooning Italian woman and injuring 16 others.

Nathan Louis Campbell was expected to be arraigned this afternoon on one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The complaint includes the special allegation of use of a deadly weapon — a car.

Prosecutors were expected to ask that Campbell’s bail be set at $1.48 million. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Campbell turned himself in at a Santa Monica police station about two hours after the rampage, which began around 6 p.m. Saturday. He was booked into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Metropolitan Detention Center on suspicion of murder at 2:43 a.m. Sunday and remained jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

The suspect, a Colorado native with a history of minor crimes in that state and Florida, was believed to have been living in his car.

Campbell is suspected of purposely aiming a dark blue 2008 Dodge Avenger at groups of people as he sped south down the Venice Boardwalk from Dudley Avenue to near Sunset Avenue, causing chaos and panic at one of L.A.’s biggest tourist magnets.

Killed in the melee was 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni, who was visiting Venice on her honeymoon, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said. Her husband of two weeks, Christian Casadei, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said an autopsy determined that the cause of the woman’s death was blunt-force trauma to the head and neck, and her death has been classified as a homicide.

The Italian newspaper La Republicca reported that Gruppioni ran a family business in her hometown, Rastignano, near Bologna. She was the daughter of prominent businessman Valerio Gruppioni, former president of the Bologna soccer team, La Republicca reported.

Some members of the woman’s family arrived in the Southland Sunday, and planned to return to Italy with the woman’s body today. Katia Gruppioni, an aunt of the victim, told NBC4 in a text message that Gruppioni “was robbed of her life while living her dream visit to California with her husband. This was a tremendous injustice. Alice was a remarkable young lady making her personal dreams come true.”

Gruppioni’s husband fought back tears as he spoke to ABC7 about his new wife’s death.

“There isn’t word(s) to explain what happened and what I feel,” he said.

Witnesses said the driver of the car seemed to purposely aim at pedestrians as he swerved along the popular Ocean Front Walk.

A man who identified himself as “Justin” said he was selling art from his booth when he heard a “scraping” sound to his left and saw a car “careening a bit out of control. It took out a whole booth of sunglasses,” he said. “Like smash, like you see in a movie — like a fruit stand smash.”

“I’m kind of playing chicken with him, fight or flight,” Justin said.

“I ran, but not before I saw him hit three other people and, you know, take off down the block at like 40, running people over and leaving a wake of destruction.”

The driver abandoned the car at Ocean Park Boulevard and Beverly Avenue in Santa Monica, about two miles away. Around 8 p.m. Saturday, Campbell turned himself in at a Santa Monica police station, where he was questioned by Los Angeles police detectives and later arrested.