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California man beaten to death after driving truck onto sidewalk following altercation, police say

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/11/2021 John Bacon, USA TODAY
a close up of a person: Police tape © Matt Rourke, AP Police tape

A Southern California driver who witnesses said attempted to crash into pedestrians on a sidewalk was pulled from his truck and beaten to death, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said.

The tumult began early Saturday morning when the man was asked to leave Rock It Sports Lounge and Grill in Hawthorne, a city of 90,000 people 15 miles south of Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

The man left but soon returned, driving his truck onto the sidewalk and nearly striking several customers, the statement said. Callers told police the driver was "attempting to strike people," the statement said. The driver lost control of the truck and hit a tree.

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"Surrounding patrons then attempted to take the driver out of his vehicle, but he accelerated and drove his truck into a nearby building," the statement said. "Patrons again took the driver out of his vehicle, and a physical altercation ensued."

Police arrived on the scene a short time later.

"Hawthorne police officers saw the driver lying on the ground, suffering what appeared to be blunt force trauma," the statement said. "Paramedics provided life-saving measures, but he was pronounced deceased on scene."

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The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office identified the driver as Melguin Lopez Santos, 40, of Los Angeles. Most of the people involved in the incident were interviewed by detectives, then released, pending the result of an autopsy, officials said.

Monica Perez, wife of Lopez Santos, tearfully urged anyone with information on her husband's death to come forward.

"It's unfair, I feel like somebody knows something," Perez told KNBC-TV. "We're hurting here."

Sheriff's Lt. Hugo Reynaga told the Daily Breeze that Lopez Santos was told to leave the bar for being a nuisance. The ensuing incident was captured on grainy surveillance video, and the fight was partially obscured, Reynaga said.

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“You could see there was a fight going on, but you couldn’t tell who was doing what,” he said.

Detectives waited for the results of the autopsy to see whether Lopez Santos may have suffered a medical issue during the fight that led to his death, Reynaga said, adding that the crashes “weren’t that impactful.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California man beaten to death after driving truck onto sidewalk following altercation, police say



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