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CHP Investigating Lyft Passenger Death On 110 Freeway

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The California Highway Patrol is investigating the death of a 23-year-old man who fell out of a Lyft car onto the 110 Freeway.

As KCAL9/CBS2's Peter Daut reports, his family suspects the driver is to blame.

It was on the busy 110 Freeway last week that Justin Lavelle somehow fell out of the Lyft car he was riding in and was then hit by multiple vehicles.

Lyft has now apologized and fired the driver involved.

Lavelle, a waiter from Virginia, was heading from West Hollywood to Long Beach.

His friend says Lavelle called him during the ride to complain about the driver, who had apparently threatened to throw him onto the freeway.

Lavelle later called his mother, screaming the driver had pepper-sprayed him.

Moments later, Lavelle somehow fell out of the car and right onto the freeway.

Daut spoke with his father by phone from North Carolina:

"What person in their right mind would get out of a vehicle on one of those busy highways out there unless he was forced," said Justin's father John Lavelle.

In the wake of Lavelle's death, a Lyft employee sent an email to his friend that reads in part:

"Obviously, the behavior that displayed towards your friend is in no way something we would ever encourage, condone, or defend."

The company also sent KCAL9/CBS2 a statement:

"We are deeply saddened by this incident and our thoughts are with those impacted by this loss. We have been in daily contact with this individual's family to offer our support and assistance. 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."

Lyft also acknowledged it has a strict no-weapons policy, including pepper-spray, for drivers and passengers.

"I see some instant culpability. That they're acknowledging he did something," said Lavelle.

Lavelle's father says his son was gentle and not the type to pick fights or act dangerously.

"Justin would have asked to be let out of the car," said Lavelle. "He wouldn't have provoked anybody to pepper spray him."

CHP investigators say they have not spoken with the driver but they plan to. Right now, they are still gathering evidence and speaking to witnesses.

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