Long Beach resident Chris Fallon, 34, was driving east in his tow truck on West Walnut Street on Dec. 7 when he quickly noticed that something was wrong.
“I basically see cars being scattered all over the place on the 100 block,” he said, adding that it looked like a scene from a Hollywood action movie. “One car went into the stoop of a house.”
Fallon watched as 55-year-old Long Beach resident Michael Carsella, driving erratically in a 2002 Infiniti, plowed into several parked vehicles. Police said the incident occurred at 1:24 p.m., when Carsella allegedly drove while intoxicated along the 100 block of West Walnut, between Magnolia and National boulevards.
“He was drunk and hit about four cars, and a civilian followed him to Park Avenue and was able to stop him,” said Sgt. Rich DePalma, of the Long Beach Police Department. “A police officer was nearby; he intervened and placed the subject under arrest.”
Video of the incident shows Fallon and a police officer subduing Carsella on Park Avenue following a scuffle on the street. Another video shows the trail of destruction that Carsella allegedly left behind, with extensively damaged cars along West Walnut, and the incident left residents in the typically quiet neighborhood shaken, Fallon said.
“Cars were flying all over the place, and I can see the airbag smoke coming from his car,” said Fallon, who owns Island Park-based Towing Solutions. “And the neighbors were running after him, trying to take pictures and video with their cellphones, and I’m blowing my horn so they get out of the way.”
After Carsella struck the vehicles — at least seven, Fallon said — he continued driving east, left the scene and even blew past a stop sign, according to Fallon, who pursued him, later saying that he posed a danger to others.
“He passes a school bus unloading children on National [Boulevard], and at that point I stopped for the school bus and they waved me on,” Fallon said, adding that Carsella was driving faster than 50 mph. “He sort of seems to know that I’m chasing him. His back bumper was hanging off and the front hood was up.”
Carsella eventually turned onto Park Avenue, where Fallon managed to cut in front of him and block him in with his truck, across the street from City Hall. “The suspect got out of the car, and the tow truck driver held him down,” Police Commissioner Mike Tangney said. “Officer Chris Walsh was down the street, and he ran out and assisted the tow truck driver and placed [Carsella] under arrest.”
Fallon recounted rushing over to subdue Carsella after he blocked him in. “He starts backing up, and as he starts backing up I basically jump out of the car and bum rush him to get out of the car,” Fallon said, adding that the entire incident unfolded in about two minutes. “I yelled at him to go sit on the curb, and he basically asked me if I’m a cop at that point.”
Fallon said that after he told Carsella that he wasn’t a police officer, Carsella pushed him and tried to get back in his car. “He basically swung on me, and I managed to get him to the ground,” Fallon said, adding that the two wrestled for 30 seconds or so before Walsh arrived. “As I’m on top of him, I hear over Chris Walsh’s radio that a major car accident was reported on the 100 block of West Walnut with a driver fleeing, and I said, ‘This is him.’”
Fallon said that Carsella claimed that he had pneumonia and passed out while driving.
Video of the incident, posted on Project 11561, a local Facebook group, shows Fallon holding Carsella down on the sidewalk before Walsh can be seen rushing over and placing him under arrest, ordering him to put his hands behind his back and stay down. The video also shows what appears to be the Infiniti Carsella was driving, which sustained significant front and side damage.
“I just passed out, I just passed out,” Carsella can be heard saying as he is arrested.
Other officers rushed to the scene, DePalma added. No injuries were reported.
Police said that Carsella refused to take a breathalyzer test, and was charged with driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, as well as driving without a license, registration, inspection sticker or proof of insurance. He was arraigned at City Court on Monday before Judge Frank DiKranis, and was released on $3,500 cash bail.
Carsella’s attorney, Leslie Shamis, declined to comment, but said his client pleaded not guilty. His car was impounded, and police said they did not know where he might have been drinking before the incident.
Carsella, who was also arrested for DWI in 1986, could not be reached for comment. He is due back in court on Jan. 29.
Fallon said he had never seen such destruction. “I was shocked,” he said. “This is one of the worst accidents I’ve seen in my life, towing in Long Beach for 15 years. The guy could’ve killed somebody.”
On Facebook, residents said that some of the vehicles were totaled. One of them, Karen Dinan told Project 11561, “was pushed about 50 feet.”
“If there had been a kid in there, god forbid,” another resident wrote after posting a photo of one of the damaged vehicles.