Officials release new info on Va. Beach native’s death on California freeway


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach native Justin Lavelle would have turned 24 on Wednesday.

That same day, California Highway Patrol released new information surrounding what led up to his death. Lavelle died earlier this year, on Jan. 31, after a car hit him on Interstate 110 in California.

Highway patrol says chemical tests confirm Lavelle was pepper-sprayed moments before he was kicked out of a Lyft on the freeway. 

Lavelle had plans to take the Lyft to visit a friend. While inside the Lyft, Lavelle called his friend and told him his driver was acting strange.

The Lyft driver, Tariq Rasseed, told NBC affiliate station KNBC the two got into a fight because Lavelle was drunk and tried to take control of the steering wheel.

“He hold my steering and I couldn’t move an inch,” Rasseed said. “I would have died; I didn’t have no choice left.”

Rasseed says he had no choice, but to kick him out of the car. However, in a phone interview Rasseed initially denied pepper spraying Lavelle.

Now, highway patrol says he admitted he indeed pepper-sprayed Lavelle.

Shortly after Lavelle was kicked out of the car, he was hit and killed by another car on the freeway.

A collision report says witnesses saw Lavelle, “running on the shoulder and the lanes.” 

His mom Amy Lavelle, who lives in Virginia Beach, told 10 On Your Side in an interview in February that her son called her while on the freeway. That was the last time she heard his voice.

“He was screaming hideously, ‘Mom, I’ve been pepper-sprayed. Mom, I’ve been pepper-sprayed,'” recalled Lavelle. “I kept trying to say, ‘Where are you? Where are you? Who did this to you? Who did this to you.’ He was screaming nonstop and then the phone disconnected.”

Lavelle’s friends rushed to the hospital and want to know who hit him.

“It’s not fair to his family and his friends that we don’t know. We have no idea what happened,” said Anna Forristall.

California Highway Patrol have not identified any suspects, but troopers plan to present their investigation to a district attorney.

“Nothing will bring my child back, but what I do want is him to be put away and not to be able to hurt anybody else,” said Amy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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