Judge urges peace as threats, anger spill out over Halloween crash that killed family

Cecilia Ramos watched live on Facebook as paramedics tried to revive her nephew.

On Halloween night, she heard sirens in her Los Cerritos neighborhood and turned to a local Facebook page, Streaming562, to find out what was going on.

In a live video, Ramos saw the aftermath of a crash that killed a family of three when an SUV jumped a curb and hit them as they walked with a stroller.

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

Ramos’ nephew Joseph Awaida, his wife, Raihan Dakhil, and their son, Omar, had just left Ramos’ home after a Halloween gathering where 3-year-old Omar chowed down on candy and cake-pops.

They were 100 steps from their condo when a suspected drunk driver hit them, Ramos said.

“He plowed down an entire family,” Ramos said.

Cecilia Ramos, aunt of Joseph Awaida who was killed along with his wife Raihan and son Omar, by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween night. Ramos spoke to the media on behalf of the family, outside the courthouse where the suspect, Carlo Navarro did not appear in the courtroom. Photo by Brittany MurrayPress-Telegram/SCNG – Pool photographer.

Thursday, Ramos was in a Long Beach courtroom, hoping to see the man accused of killing her loved ones.

Instead, an attorney appeared in place of Carlo Navarro, the 20-year-old suspect. Navarro was allowed to remain out of court for the meantime because he’s so far only charged with misdemeanors unrelated to the crash.

Authorities are still weighing what charges to file against Navarro in connection with the Halloween tragedy. For now, they’ve filed three misdemeanors for allegedly breaking into a smoke shop in Bixby Knolls on June 30.

Authorities used the lesser charges to try to keep Navarro in jail while they wait for the more serious case to be filed.

Navarro was arrested the night of the crash, but he was quickly freed after posting bond on $100,000 bail. On Tuesday, prosecutors filed the misdemeanor charges and asked a judge to set Navarro’s bail at an abnormally high $500,000. They argued he might bail out again and flee now that he knows he could be charged with killing the beloved family.

Thursday’s hearing was the first time Navarro had been scheduled to appear in court on any of the charges. But a public defender appeared in his place and quickly rescheduled the proceedings.

Navarro will continue to be held on $500,000 bail at least until his next hearing on Dec. 4.

Ramos said she was disappointed Navarro wasn’t in the courtroom.

She and Joseph’s mother were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Navarro’s family when the judge spoke to them.

“First, I want to offer my condolences to the victims’ family,” she said. Then she urged everyone to “peacefully grieve” and not escalate the situation.

Navarro and his family have been receiving death threats as anger and frustration about the situation have poured out online, according to his grandmother.

Ramos said she can identify with the frustration.

The night of the crash, she tried to call Joseph and Raihan after seeing the video on Facebook. When they didn’t answer, she ran to the family’s condo and pounded on the windows until police confirmed her fears—the family had been rushed to the hospital, where they died.

“I understand that part of the grieving process is anger,” Ramos said, but ultimately, she thinks Joseph and Raihan would have agreed with the judge. They were compassionate people. The death threats would have left them heartbroken, she said.

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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.