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12 hurt as car drives into crowd at LA boardwalk

By Tami Abdollah

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 3 2013 11:35 p.m. MDT

Pedestrians gather as police and fire officials respond after a car drove through a packed afternoon crowd along the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. At least a dozen people were injured, two of them critically, according to police.

Maarten Smitskamp, AP

Enlarge photo»

LOS ANGELES — A driver plowed into a crowd walking along one of the most popular beach boardwalks in Southern California early Saturday evening, injuring 12 people, two of them critically, before fleeing, officials said.

The sandy-haired man drove the powerful midsized Dodge Avenger into vendors and tourists as they walked along the paved pedestrian walkway of the Venice Beach boardwalk, leaving behind a scene strewn with bleeding victims, mannequins, knocked over lawn chairs, and chaos as he drove away, police and witnesses said.

He had yet to be taken into custody more than three hours later, police said.

Ten of the 12 injured were taken to hospitals, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. Two of them were in critical condition and two more in serious condition, Humphrey said.

Witnesses told firefighters it appeared the man was in control of his car as he ran people down, but police said they did not know his motives.

"If this was an intentional act that certainly raises the stakes quite a bit," Los Angeles police Lt. Andy Neiman said.

Alex Hagan, 22, who was working the front desk at the Cadillac Hotel, said the man was sitting in his parked car on the street right next to the boardwalk and his hotel when he suddenly started the engine and accelerated, swerving past yellow poles meant to keep cars off the pedestrian walkway.

"I heard a big 'boom, boom,' like the sound of someone going up and down the curb, it was super loud," Hagan told The Associated Press."

The car knocked down two mannequins then ran into vendors selling at their booths, Hagan said.

Many rushed to help the injured while others ran after the car screaming and cursing, Hagan said.

Firefighters surveyed the sprawling crowd looking for injured immediately after the crash, Humphrey said. Hours later police surveyed the same ground for evidence.

The Venice boardwalk is a cultural hub in a part of Los Angeles known for its circus-meets-gritty-city eccentricities.

The 1.5-mile ribbon of asphalt that runs along the sand a few hundred yards from the ocean is home to galleries, restaurants, tattoo shops, skateboard parks and the famous outdoor weight room known as Muscle Beach.

It can draw as many as 150,000 people on summer weekends.

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