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Hit-and-run driver accelerated onto L.A. boardwalk

  • A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The orange cones at right mark where the drivers rampage began. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

    A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The orange cones at right mark where the drivers rampage began. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

  • A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The blue van, left, shows where the driver was parked before beginning his rampage along the boardwalk. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

    A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The blue van, left, shows where the driver was parked before beginning his rampage along the boardwalk. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

  • A makeshift memorial along the Venice,  Calif., beach boardwalk is shown Sunday Aug. 4, 2013 near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

    A makeshift memorial along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk is shown Sunday Aug. 4, 2013 near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

  • In this still frame made from security camera footage from Snapchat, Inc. headquarters, pedestrians scatter as a car drives through a packed afternoon crowd along the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. A driver plowed into crowds at the Venice Beach boardwalk in a seemingly intentional hit-and-run that killed a woman and injured 11 others. (AP Photo/Snapchat Inc.)

    In this still frame made from security camera footage from Snapchat, Inc. headquarters, pedestrians scatter as a car drives through a packed afternoon crowd along the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. A driver plowed into crowds at the Venice Beach boardwalk in a seemingly intentional hit-and-run that killed a woman and injured 11 others. (AP Photo/Snapchat Inc.)

  • A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The orange cones at right mark where the drivers rampage began. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)
  • A street along the Venice, Calif., beach boardwalk, Sunday Aug. 4, 2013, near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. The blue van, left, shows where the driver was parked before beginning his rampage along the boardwalk. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)
  • A makeshift memorial along the Venice,  Calif., beach boardwalk is shown Sunday Aug. 4, 2013 near where a Saturday incident involving a driver who accelerated through a crowd of beachgoers, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way. The hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)
  • In this still frame made from security camera footage from Snapchat, Inc. headquarters, pedestrians scatter as a car drives through a packed afternoon crowd along the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. A driver plowed into crowds at the Venice Beach boardwalk in a seemingly intentional hit-and-run that killed a woman and injured 11 others. (AP Photo/Snapchat Inc.)

The driver parked outside a hotel and surveyed the leisurely summer scene at California’s Venice Beach boardwalk: Hundreds of people were sitting at cafes, walking along the seashore or shopping at vendors selling jewelry or art.

Then, according to surveillance video, the man got into a large black car, steered around a vehicle barrier and accelerated mercilessly through the crowd, hitting one person after another as bystanders tried desperately to get out of the way.

Saturday’s hit-and-run killed an Italian woman on her honeymoon and hurt 11 others who only a moment earlier had been enjoying an afternoon near the beach at the height of vacation season.

A couple of hours later, authorities arrested a man on suspicion of murder after he walked into a police station in neighboring Santa Monica and said he was involved.

Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, of Los Angeles remained jailed yesterday on $1 million bail. The police declined to discuss a motive but Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said there was no indication that the attack was a terrorist act or that anyone else was involved.

By the time it was over, the driver had covered about a quarter of a mile along the boardwalk before fleeing. The entire incident was over in minutes.

Mustafa Balci, 44, and his wife, Yesim Balci, 48, were sitting in lawn chairs at their booth Saturday, as they had daily for the last three years, when they saw a large, black sedan roaring directly toward them.

Three people were knocked to the ground and within seconds the car was at their booth. It swerved left, sideswiping a picnic table holding their wares – the traditional Turkish blue glassware of the eye to ward off the evil eye and wall hangings of Jesus and Virgin Mary tapestries.

The car hit three customers looking at the items and slammed into Mustafa Balci’s knees pushing him backward, breaking a table, smashing a mirror and scattering everything. Yesim Balci was flung 8 feet, tumbling backward and landing facedown.

“I couldn’t see her when I woke up, I looked up and was like where is she? I yelled, ‘Are you around? Are you alive?’ She yelled back, ‘I’m alive,’ ” Mustafa Balci said. “I thought both of us would be dead.”

Balci was helped up by strangers who took him over to his wife. The couple were taken along with three others to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, treated for minor injuries and released. Yesim Balci had her ankle taped up, blood seeping through the back, and bruises all over her body; she could no longer raise her left arm.

Yesterday, the boardwalk featured the typical summer crowd, people on roller blades, beach cruisers, performers and regular vendors. The Balcis were also back at their booth to take stock of their losses.

A broken picnic table was behind them, and a box of their damaged wares in front of them. They estimated that 90 percent of their goods were broken, at a loss of $6,000 for handmade goods whose raw materials were shipped from Turkey. They don’t have any health insurance and aren’t sure how they will make up the losses.

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