A 24-year-old woman was killed and other spectators were struck by a driver doing doughnuts at an illegal street takeover in Hyde Park on Christmas night, police said.
More than a hundred people were gathered around 9: 30 p.m. at Crenshaw Boulevard and West Florence Avenue, a common meet-up spot for the hyped-up illicit street sideshows where drivers show off by spinning out their cars, racing and doing burnouts that send plumes of smoke rising.
The unidentified woman was watching along with the crowd when she was hit.
“It seemed like the vehicle was just spinning and lost control right into a crowd. It was a very fast and violent maneuver,” said LAPD Lt. Ernie Berry.
Video posted on social media showed the scene unfold, Berry said. Two people were thrown to the ground during the chaos. One person was pinned between the vehicle and some type of pole or object.
The injured woman was taken to a trauma center and later died from her injuries. Police are searching for the driver, who fled the scene.
“This is our worst nightmare come true. We did not want something like this to happen. It could have been a big mass casualty event,” Berry said.
The raucous takeovers have become a feature of Southern California street culture. And they have become more frequent. During the first six months of this year, the Los Angeles Police Department reported 705 sideshows, compared with 500 for the same period last year.
Spectators often post images of the crowds, the screeching and the burnouts on social media. At least half a dozen people have died during these illicit shows this year.
In unverified videos posted on Instagram of the Christmas takeover, spectators crowd the intersection, some lighting fireworks; several cars spin in circles as passengers hang out their windows and bystanders record the wild scene on their phones. One video appears to show a fight breaking out as screeching is heard. The informal gatherings often move from location to location.
“Since the pandemic it’s getting worse and worse,” said Lili Trujillo Puckett, founder of Street Racing Kills. The nonprofit aims to raise awareness of the danger of illegal street racing and provides reckless driving intervention and traffic safety programs.
“We need infrastructure to stop this. You can go buy a gun, but it’s really hard to get a speed bump in your neighborhood.”
Trujillo Puckett’s 16-year-old daughter was killed in a street race in 2013. Her group backed state Senate Bill 1472, which she hopes will help reduce street racing. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill earlier this year. Called Ryan’s Law, it gives prosecutors the ability to charge drivers involved in street takeovers, racing and sideshows with a felony if their action leads to someone being killed.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu), is named after Ryan Koeppel, a Tarzana teenager killed in 2020 by a speeding driver who made a left turn. It expands the legal definition of gross negligence and takes effect next year.
Grieving families have been frustrated by light sentences for those involved in street racing.
Another piece of legislation that passed last year aims to crack down on street racers by suspending the driver’s licenses of convicted sideshow participants for up to six months. It becomes effective July 1, 2025.
“We have a pervasive problem throughout the bureau where these these type of events are occurring, especially on the weekends,” Berry said. “We’re asking the public to please drive your vehicle safely, especially young drivers, to stop this type of activity. It’s dangerous. We are going to pay particular attention to this type of activity. If we see you doing this, we are going to impound your vehicle.”
Police are asking the public if they saw anything regarding the takeover to call LAPD South Traffic detectives at (323) 421-2500.