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Manslaughter charges sought in Calif. crash

87-year-old drove onto crowded street

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Police will ask the district attorney to file manslaughter charges against an 87-year-old man whose car roared through a farmer's market, killing 10 people and injuring 63.

The July 16 crash was the result of unsafe speed and other violations by Russell Weller, Police Chief James T. Butts told reporters outside police headquarters yesterday.

"We're asking consideration of the district attorney's office in seeking to file the charge of manslaughter," Butts said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said his office has received the Police Department's more than 900-page report and will make a decision after reviewing it. He didn't say when that decision will come.

"The DA's office had prosecutors present at the crime scene within the first few hours and has been reviewing reports and interviewing hundreds of witnesses since then," Cooley said in a statement issued shortly before the news conference.

Weller's attorneys, Jim Bianco and Vicky Podberesky, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The outdoor market was crowded with shoppers when Weller's car crashed through, sending bodies flying and smashing tents and boxes of produce.

Butts said Weller had just mailed a letter at a nearby post office and turned onto a street, striking a Mercedes-Benz from behind. That accident caused only minor damage, the chief said, but then Weller's Buick suddenly pushed the Mercedes out of its path, picked up speed, and roared into the middle of the market, on a street that had been barricaded.

More than 100 collisions occurred over about 1,000 feet before the Buick's path was finally blocked, Butts said. Weller never applied the brakes or tried to take the car out of gear, and it appeared Weller stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake, Butts added. The car had no mechanical problems.

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