VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Amy Lavelle is fighting for justice from her home in Princess Anne, Maryland, about 3,000 miles from where a hit-and-run driver killed her son after he was allegedly dropped off on the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles by a Lyft driver.
Justin Lavelle, 23, was riding a Lyft from his apartment in West Hollywood to a friend’s house around 1 a.m. on Jan. 31.
A friend told KNBC that Justin called him while in the Lyft and said the driver was being “weird” and threatening to force him out of the car. Justin was soon stranded on the 110 Freeway and called his mom in Virginia Beach.
“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.”
California Highway Patrol (CHP) says the 2012 Ocean Lakes High School graduate was struck by at least one car. He died at the hospital surrounded by friends.
“It’s not fair to his family and his friends that we don’t know. We have no idea what happened,” Anna Forristall said.
The Lyft driver, Tariq Rasseed, told KNBC he believed Justin was drunk and a confrontation started when he was asked to drive faster.
“He hold my steering and I couldn’t move an inch,” Rasseed said. “I would have died; I didn’t have no choice left.”
Lavelle got a flight the same day to Los Angeles and says her son’s body was “unrecognizable.”
“Nothing is going to bring my son back, but what I do want is [Rasseed] to be put away and not to be able to hurt anybody else,” she said.
CHP is investigating both the fatal hit-and-run and the drop-off by Rasseed.
Lyft released this statement:
We are deeply saddened by this incident. Given the serious nature of these allegations, we have immediately deactivated the driver’s account.”
Lavelle is left with only pictures of her son, a man who “had a heart the size of Texas” and “didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” as she relives the phone call that changed her life.
“I will never get his scream out of my head.”