VAN NUYS : Teen-Ager Testifies Defendant Beat Man

A second witness testified Tuesday that the man he saw carry out a beating on the first night of the Los Angeles riots was Traville John Craig, who is charged with murdering one man and attempting to murder another.

The testimony of 16-year-old Luis Hurtado, of North Hollywood, came on the second day of Craig’s trial in Van Nuys Superior Court.

Elias Garcia Rivera, 32, suffered a fractured skull in the incident and died eight months later, becoming the first and only person to die in the San Fernando Valley as a result of the civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers in the first Rodney King beating trial.

Craig, 20, is charged with murdering Rivera and attempting to murder Victor Medina by beating both men with a board. On Monday, Medina identified Craig as the man who attacked him and Rivera.


Hurtado testified Tuesday that he was in his apartment complex on Vanowen Street near Coldwater Canyon Boulevard when he saw a group of black men approach a group of Latinos standing in front of his building on April 29, 1992.

Hurtado said he saw Craig chase Medina to a second-floor landing, where Craig picked up a board and demanded Medina’s wallet.

As Medina refused, Garcia ran to his friend’s aid, Hurtado said. “Elias was on his way up the stair . . . and (Craig) hit him when he got to the last step and he fell,” Hurtado said.

Craig then used the same board to strike Medina on the top of his head, according to the witness.

Craig says he acted in self-defense when he hit Medina with the board and struck Garcia with his fist. Medina and Hurtado, however, now have told the jury that both men were unarmed when Craig assaulted them.

Medina required about 20 stitches to close a wound on his head. Garcia apparently thought that he was only bruised, but he passed out in his apartment about an hour later. After undergoing emergency brain surgery, he fell into a coma. His family removed Garcia from life-support systems on Dec. 16, 1992.