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Man accused of killing Griffith Park cyclist charged with murder

Flowers mark the location where a cyclist was killed after being struck by a vehicle in Griffith Park
Flowers mark the location where cyclist Andrew Jelmert, 77, was killed after being struck by a vehicle in Griffith Park on April 16.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A driver accused of hitting a cyclist in Griffith Park over the weekend has been charged with murder, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Wednesday.

Andrew Jelmert was near the end of a 67-mile training ride when Jairo Martinez allegedly hit him from behind while trying to pass another car, according to investigators.

Jelmert, 77, died at the scene, renewing calls among cyclists for more bike protections inside the 4,200-acre park.

In addition to murder, prosecutors charged Martinez, 37, with fatal hit-and-run and driving with a suspended or revoked license after being convicted of driving under the influence. He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

“My heart goes out to everyone who grieves for the senseless loss of cyclist Andrew Jelmert,” Gascón said in a statement. “Drunken drivers threaten the safety of us all. They must be held accountable and their victims given the trauma-informed services they will need to become survivors.”

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Jelmert was pedaling northbound on Crystal Spring Drive not far from the merry-go-round when he was struck on Saturday around 3:45 p.m. He died at the scene.

Andrew Jelmert, 77, a Realtor, died at the scene, leaving fellow cyclists shaken and renewing calls for bike lanes in the park.

Police say Martinez abandoned the gray BMW he was driving and ran down a nearby embankment but was caught by park rangers after hikers identified him. He appeared to have been drinking, according to police.

A real estate agent at Deasy Penner Podley, Jelmert was one of hundreds of cyclists on the training run in preparation for a seven-day, 545-mile ride to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Los Angeles LGBT Center.

It would have been Jelmert’s fifth time on the ride. He had raised $21,000 for the June event, according to his fundraising page. Since his death, donations have been pouring in on the page.

Two men pose outside a building
Andrew Jelmert, left, and life partner Andre Goeritz
(Andre Goeritz)

Dan Wentzel, who was there that day, said Jelmert was struck about a quarter-mile from the end of the ride. Several other cyclists came upon the “horrific” scene, he said.

“Everyone in the AIDS/Lifecycle community has been mourning Andy,” said Wentzel.

Griffith Park is popular with cyclists who whiz down its tree-lined roads, often crossing over from the nearby L.A. River bike path. But the few bike lanes that exist do not have barriers separating riders from cars, according to the L.A. Department of Transportation.

Motorists avoiding traffic on the 5 Freeway often use Crystal Springs Drive as a detour. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, but many drivers go significantly faster.

An advocacy group for safer streets is planning to place permanent memorials at the sites where pedestrians and cyclists have been killed.

After Jelmert’s death, Damian Kevitt, executive director of Streets Are For Everyone, started a petition to phase out cars from Griffith Park, saying that he hopes Angelenos will learn from the tragedy.

“There’s been talk for years now about shutting down large sections of the park from cars,” he said. “There’s been talk about specifically closing one side of Crystal Springs Drive to cars so there is a pedestrian path.”

Kevitt’s group, along with Different Spokes Bicycling Club of Southern California and Jelmert’s friends and family, plans to erect a bike painted white in memory of Jelmert.

Known as ghost bikes, these memorials are often used to mark the sites where bicyclists have died.


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