We don't know

It happened this way, according to eyewitnesses. About 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday (1/19), a man crossed Crenshaw Boulevard a little south of the 105 Freeway. He jaywalked. (The Daily Breeze put it delicately, less judgmentally: the man was "crossing outside of a crosswalk.")

The man stepped into a southbound lane. Or did he run or dart or stumble or weave or wander? We don't know. It's best to say now that he stepped into a southbound lane of Crenshaw Boulevard, "crossing outside of a crosswalk."

Perhaps he wanted to catch a bus going north and had come down from the Green Line station above the freeway but on the wrong side of Crenshaw. Or maybe his goal was the strip mall on 120th Street on the east side of the highway, or he was walking to the nightshift at one of the businesses further south. We don't know.

It was dark. But the moon was full that night, about a third of the way up the eastern horizon. He might have seen it from under the edge of the freeway. And the street lights shown from their high masts, but there aren't that many lights on the stretch of Crenshaw south of the freeway. Or he might have been under the 105 still, not far from the bus benches at the foot of the Green Line escalators, illuminated by the lamps set into the concrete of the overpass.

It's best to say now that the man stepped into the darkened street (beneath the moonlight, between the street lights). And he was hit. Was it just as he stepped into the highway or further on, in the middle of the lanes, or just before he reached the safety of the median strip, where his attention might have been. We don't know.

The man crossing the wide, divided highway (near to safety? far from it?) was hit by a white or gray minivan. It didn't stop. The man, now lying in the roadway, was run over by a car. It also didn't stop. We don't know its color. We don't know how busy Crenshaw was that night or how much time elapsed between the white or gray minivan stuck the man crossing the highway and the car ran over the man lying in the dark, under the moon, under the lights.

People rushed to help the man lying there. Perhaps they had come down the escalator with him. Perhaps they had ridden the Green Line with him many times before, only a partial stranger then, or they were already waiting for a bus under the freeway. Perhaps not.

It's best to say now that some people rushed to help the man. A woman ran across from the east side of the highway, across its three lanes of traffic, across the median. She was hit, too, but we don't know if she was stuck as she ran from the curb or in the middle of the lanes or only steps away from the man lying on the asphalt.

The car that hit her stopped. The driver got out. He got out perhaps to render aid, perhaps to make sense of what had just happened, perhaps out of guilt or only automatically. He stopped, and some of the bystanders closed in. Did something about the man and his manner divert them from turning to the injured man lying in the street? We don't know.

The bystanders turned on the man who had stopped, gotten out of his car, and stepped into the street to see what he'd done. The bystanders could have been rescuers or mourners or gawkers or eyewitnesses under other circumstances, and we don't know what new circumstances turned them against the man who had struck the woman, but some of the bystanders beat the man. One of them stole his cell phone. We don't know why.

It's best to say now that the driver who stopped was beaten and robbed and that he was able to flee those who attacked him. But he returned a short while later to where the man was lying in the street, to where the women was lying on the concrete walkway, and after Hawthorne police had arrived, after some of the bystanders had melted into the dark.

We don't know why the man returned. He spoke to the police. As he stood with the officers, the man saw one of his attackers, the bystander who had taken his cell phone. The police arrested him, perhaps because other bystanders stepped forward to corroborate the beaten, robbed man's story. We don't know.

Later, the woman who had been hit was hospitalized for serious (but not life threatening) injuries. Later, the driver of the car that had run the man over was found and his car impounded. Later, the man who had been struck and run over died.

It's best to say now that it happened this way, because we don't know.

D.J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles every Monday and Friday at 2 p.m. on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.

The image on this page was adapted from a photograph taken by flickr user Oleg Dulin. It is used under a Creative Commons License.

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