LONG BEACH, Calif. - A West Hollywood man told his mother he was taking a Lyft to Long Beach, but somehow he ended up on foot on the 110 Freeway and was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Amy Lavelle recounted the phone call her son Justin made while taking the Lyft on Jan. 30, and then the phone call he made after midnight.
"I said, 'Honey, be safe and smart.' And he said, 'I will mom,'" she said. "He was screaming hideously, saying, 'Mom, I've been pepper sprayed.' I kept trying to ask him, 'Who did this to you? Who did this to you? Where are you? Where are you?' Then finally he told me he was on the freeway and he just kept screaming and screaming and then phone disconnected."
The California Highway Patrol said officers responded to the 110 Freeway, near the 51st Street offramp after receiving calls of a pedestrian in the lanes.
The 23-year-old died of injuries he sustained after being struck by a vehicle. CHP officers will be interviewing the Lyft driver to find out what role he played in Justin ending up on the freeway.
Investigators are also trying to find the hit-and-run driver who fled the scene.
"We're also trying to get the community to help us out, and see if anybody witnesses a vehicle colliding into a pedestrian on the freeway," CHP Officer Roberto Gomez said.
In a statement, Lyft said it is working with law enforcement in the investigation.
"Given the serious nature of these allegations, we immediately deactivated the driver's account. We have proactively reached out to law enforcement and stand ready to assist in their investigation," a statement said.
Lavelle said she doesn't blame Lyft, but wants the driver held accountable and justice for her son.
"I will never get his screaming out of my head, that he had been pepper sprayed and I felt helpless 3,000 miles away," Lavelle said.
The coroner will do a toxicology test and autopsy on Justin.