Clerk arrested for selling alcohol to driver accused of killing family on Halloween, police say

Long Beach police say they’ve arrested a woman who provided alcohol to the 20-year-old man suspected of killing a family while he drove drunk on Halloween night.

Police allege 56-year-old Amor Potestades Amacio sold Carlo Navarro the alcohol hours before the deadly crash. Navarro’s attorney tells a slightly different story, alleging Amacio gave Navarro a bottle of Jack Daniel’s without making him pay.

Police allege Navarro admitted he drank four to five shots of the whiskey before getting behind the wheel and killing 30-year-old Joseph Awaida, his 32-year-old wife Raihan Dakhil and their son 3-year-old son, Omar.

Carlo Navarro in a Long Beach courtroom. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Navarro was driving over 70 mph when he jumped a curb and hit the family as they walked with a stroller at Los Cerritos Park around 10 p.m. on Oct. 31, police say in court documents.

After the crash, police immediately started looking into where Navarro got the alcohol.

On Tuesday, investigators arrested Amacio, a Norwalk resident, on suspicion of selling alcohol to a minor resulting in great bodily injury. Police said she was being held on $100,000 bail.

The Awaida family’s relatives learned of the arrest later that day.

“This is all still so upsetting,” Joseph’s aunt Cecilia Ramos said. “So many lives have been destroyed. There is little relief that the clerk is being held accountable but overwhelmingly, sadness prevails.”

Authorities say Amacio worked at Green Diamond Liquor on Long Beach Boulevard near Market Street, about two miles away from the scene of the crash.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control helped the LBPD in its investigation. The ABC will also seek penalties against Green Diamond Liquor, according to police. The store could lose its license to sell alcohol, but no final decision has been made yet, police said.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said the LBPD has been in close contact with the Awaida family during the investigation.

“Their loss has been greatly felt in our community,” he said. “However, our work is still not done, we will continue to hold all those accountable for illegal actions that lead to other crimes.”

Recently, the LBPD checked 14 other businesses in an effort to reduce alcohol sales to minors. They wrote three citations for alcohol sales to minors and five more for adults buying alcohol for minors, the LBPD said.

A woman who answered the phone at Green Diamond on Wednesday declined to comment. A hand-written sign taped above the cash register said “No credit” and “No I.D. No liquor & cigar sale.”

Green Diamond Liquor at 5351 Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.

Green Diamond Liquor at 5351 Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.

After the Halloween crash, Navarro told police he took the Jack Daniel’s shots before heading to Los Cerritos Park where he planned to continue partying with his friends, detectives wrote in a search warrant.

His attorney, Bryan Schroeder, has argued Navarro was inexperienced with alcohol and wouldn’t understand how much the drinking could affect his driving.

That could be crucial to the criminal case against Navarro. He’s been charged with three counts of murder and three counts of vehicular manslaughter. To prove the murder charges, prosecutors would have to show Navarro understood how dangerous it was to get behind the wheel and decided to do it anyway, according to legal experts.

Navarro has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held without bail.

Ramos said the Awaida family was at her house before the crash. They’d just left after a night of eating Halloween candy and watching movies when they were killed 100 steps from their condo.

When she heard the sirens, she turned to Facebook to find out what had happened. She quickly found live-streaming video of the emergency response.

“I was watching the fire department give my nephew chest compressions and the baby chest compressions,” Ramos said in November. “That was before I realized who that was.”

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.