Sad anniversary comes with a message

Ryan Carter

Police gathered Tuesday in the same Sun Valley intersection that

they did a year ago today, when a driver under the influence of

methamphetamine crashed into another car, killing a Burbank mother


and son.

This time, the officers, joined by Los Angeles Police Chief

William Bratton and other Los Angeles civic leaders, went to Glenoaks

and Sunland boulevards to remind residents about the danger of


impaired driving.

Last year, Melissa Perez, her 23-month-old son, Alec, and Perez’s

mother, Martha Cohen, were driving home in their Ford Escort when

they were broadsided by Troy Shaw. Perez, 21, died at the scene and

Alec died three days later of brain injuries he suffered in the

crash. Cohen was not seriously injured.

On Tuesday, officials parked a mangled car near the crash site to

show the consequences of driving under the influence.


“We want people to be responsible and to avoid drinking and

driving and other experiences like the one that occurred at this

intersection last year,” LAPD Det. Bill Bustos said. “This is not a

message only for Los Angeles. It’s for everybody. This incident was a


Cohen did not attend the event, but backed the message.

“Maybe a few more people will listen and realize that it’s not OK

to get behind the wheel of your car under the influence of anything,”


she said. “I’ll do anything to get that message out.”

Shaw pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in state

prison for two counts of vehicular manslaughter while under the

influence of drugs. He was enrolled in a Proposition 36 program at

the time of the crash. Proposition 36 was passed by voters more than

a year ago, mandating treatment rather than jail time for nonviolent

drug offenders.

After a year that included struggling through the case, the family

wasn’t sure how to celebrate Christmas this year without Alec and his

mother. But they did.

“Melissa would have wanted it that way,” Cohen said.