Echo Park - Three fatal hit-and-runs in three months, all within a half-mile of each other along Sunset Boulevard. That’s a lot.

While the city studies whether to install another traffic or pedestrian crossing signal to improve safety, the officers investigating the incidents between Douglas Street and While Knoll Drive are mainly focused on one problem: Human error.

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"It’s nothing [to do] with engineering issues,” said Juan Campos, a detective with the LAPD Central Traffic Division, who is investigating one of the cases and overseeing the other two. "It’s all about human behavior."

Campos was referring specifically to the most recent accident, the pedestrian death on Sunset near White Knoll Drive on the border of Echo Park and Victor Heights. 

A study has been requested to look at traffic accident near Sunset and White Knoll, according to Conrado Terrazas Cross, communications director for Council District 1. But he, too, emphasized the human factors in the area - the speeding, the jaywalking.

"It’s just really dangerous out there," Terrazas Cross said. "Even though you have the right as a pedestrian, a car will still kill you."

In the three incidents, Campos noted the factors that led to the collisions:

Dec. 19, 2019: Near Sunset Boulevard and Douglas Street

Map of Sunset Blvd and Doulgas St

José Vaquero-Gonzalez, age 60, was crossing the street on Dec. 1 when he was hit by a dark blue car.

José Vaquero-Gonzalez, age 60, was crossing Sunset at about 5:20 a.m. when he was hit by a dark blue car - possibly a Honda or Hyundai - and died at the scene.

Campos noted that the car had the green traffic light, and that the pedestrian was crossing outside the crosswalk, against the “Don’t Walk” signal.

"Our theory was that he was trying to catch a bus," Campos said. He added that the pedestrian seemed to be at fault in this case.

The motorist remains at large. Anyone with information is asked to the call the LAPD Central Traffic Division detectives at (213) 833-3713.


Jan. 24, 2020: Near Sunset Boulevard and Douglas Street

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Google map of Sunset and Douglas

Rosa Garcia, age 61, was killed when her 2004 Toyota Corolla was hit head-on on Jan. 24 by a 2019 BMW M4, which had allegedly been stolen. 

Rosa Garcia, age 61, was killed when her 2004 Toyota Corolla was hit head-on by a 2019 BMW M4, which had allegedly been stolen.

The BMW driver - Ilya Foks - left the scene on foot, but was photographed as he fled, and had left behind his wallet and driver license.

He was arrested a few days later near the 8300 block of Sepulveda Boulevard and was booked on suspicion of Vehicular Manslaughter. He is currently awaiting a preliminary hearing, Campos said.

The problem here seems to have been speeding.

The speed limit for that stretch is already a mild 35-miles-an-hour. But witnesses said Foks seemed to have been driving at around 50, Campos said.

At a slight curve, he lost control of the car and went into Garcia’s lane.


Feb. 24, 2020: Sunset Boulevard by White Knoll Drive

map of sunset and white knoll

Morena Del Carmen Alvarado-Lopez, age 58, was killed, and her 71-year-old husband was injured when they were struck by a burgundy or red four-door passenger vehicle on Feb. 24.

Morena Del Carmen Alvarado-Lopez, age 58, was killed, and her 71-year-old husband was injured when they were struck by a burgundy or red four-door passenger vehicle at about 12:50 a.m. as they were leaving the Club Bahia nightclub.

They were dragged about 50 feet before they were dislodged from the car. There is no further description of the car, or further updates on the case, Campos said.

In this case, Campos noted that the area was well lit, with all the overhead lights on. The pedestrians crossed mid-block instead of at the corner. Campos noted that the driver did not seem to see the pedestrians, but then fled the scene.

The motorist remains at large. Anyone with information is asked to the call the LAPD Central Traffic Division detectives at (213) 833-3713.

Conrado Terrazas Cross added that a traffic study currently underway could be a step toward eventually getting a stoplight or at least a flashing HAWK beacon for that area. 

sidewalk memorial to sunset boulevard hit-and-run victim Rosa Garcia

Sidewalk memorial for Rosa Garcia on Sunset Boulevard near Douglas in Echo Park

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