Devin Petelski, a fourth-year UCSB student, died at the UCLA Medical Center on Oct. 17 from injuries she sustained when a police cruiser slammed into her car two days before.
According to the Los Angeles Police Dept., Petelski was driving along Glyndon Ave. in Venice Beach at 11:55 p.m. on Oct. 15 when an LAPD cruiser traveling eastbound on Venice Boulevard crashed into the driver’s side door of her BMW. Medical officials were unable to save Petelski’s life, who was pronounced dead and taken off life support on Oct. 17.
LAPD West Traffic Detective Jesus Ravega said the LAPD hasn’t been able to determine the speed of the vehicles, but has confirmed that the police car did not have sirens or emergency lights at the time of the collision.
“[The officers were] not responding to a call Code 3,” Ravega said. “This means that the officer’s lights and sirens were not active.”
However, Christopher Medak, Petelski’s close friend who is collecting witness testimony, said two individuals who were driving behind the police car saw it turn off its alarm, emergency lights and headlights and accelerate down Venice Boulevard for two and a half to three blocks at 60 to 80 miles per hour. In fact, Medak said the officers were speeding so fast that they had no time to hit their brakes, as evidenced by a lack of tire marks at the scene.
“The vehicle, coming in at a high speed, sent her into a spin of 180 degrees with such force that her brain was so badly [injured] that she immediately went into a coma and never recovered,” Medak said.
Ravega, however, said no criminal charges have been pressed against the officers involved in the accident.
“There is no indication that there was any wrongdoing on either party’s part,” Ravega said. “It was just an unfortunate accident.”
Despite this assessment, Petelski’s family and friends are actively attempting to bring the matter to court.
Medak said Petelski had just left Clearview Treatment Center – where she worked as a substance abuse counselor – when the accident occurred.
According to Medak, she had been given a second chance at life after having struggled with substance abuse in the past. Medak said Petelski was an active member of her local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter and had been sober for the last two years.
“She was the warmest, kindest, most beautiful woman,” Medak said. “… She had no idea of her beauty, not a clue. It meant nothing to her. … She had a charm, point of view, spirituality that very few woman her age have. She was to be a great, great woman.”
Furthermore, Petelski’s aunt Leigh Godfrey said the patients her niece worked with at the treatment center were heartbroken by her untimely death.
“She had touched many, many hearts,” Godfrey said. “The people at the center are traumatized by her death.”
Godfrey added that although Petelski enjoyed going to the beach, traveling and snowboarding with friends, she valued family above anything else in her life.
“She was the first one and the last one at all family events,” Godfrey said. “She loved family time most of all. You’d think at 25 [years old], it wouldn’t be a priority, [but] it was the most important thing to her.”
Petelski was majoring in communication and was set to graduate in December. She is survived by her parents, Ronald Petelski and Shaunnah Godfrey, and brother, Michael Petelski, who declined to comment for this article.