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Victim of alleged DUI killing remembered with candlelight vigil

Young man’s death startling to Roseville
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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Residents gathered around a roadside memorial Sunday evening, staring down at Gregory De La Campa’s Batman hat positioned under a long, red rose and flanked by saint-covered candles and dozens of handwritten messages illuminated in the passing headlights.

De La Campa passed away Aug. 14, when he was killed by a truck while taking one of the evening walks that were so important to him — the kind of walk that had helped him lose 220 pounds on his own in one year. With the revelation that De La Campa, 26, was allegedly run down by an intoxicated ex-convict fleeing Roseville police, community members gathered Sunday night at the site of the tragedy, the corner of Main Street and Washington Boulevard, to take a stand against drunk driving and to remember an energetic young life that was cut short.

When De La Campa was 4 years old, he went to the movies to see Batman, starring Michael Keaton. Awed by the action, the film caused him to become a life-long Batman fanatic. He developed other interests as he grew, including singing, strumming guitars and playing drums. Described as warm-natured and welcoming, De La Campa loved telling jokes with friends and his wife, Julia, around evening barbecues. “He was nice, genuine, sweet and polite,” his sister, Cheryl De La Campa, said during the candlelight vigil.

“Whenever I introduced him to my friends, they felt like they knew him within minutes.” Last year, Cheryl De La Campa and other family members saw another side of Gregory De La Campa — one that displayed commitment and determination — when he decided to begin losing weight and improving his health. “I don’t think he could afford a gym membership yet,” Cheryl De La Campa said, “so he started taking these long 6 to 10-mile walks at night and trying to eat better. He showed so much dedication, and he ended up losing 220 pounds all by himself.”

Gregory De La Campa and Julia had been living in Reno. In July, they moved back to Roseville after she received a company transfer from her job. That same month, the movie Gregory De La Campa had been waiting more than two years to see, a Batman film called “The Dark Knight Rises,” finally hit theaters. Today, Cheryl De La Campa smiles at the thought of her brother making sure to be at the IMAX theater in downtown Sacramento on opening night, a bag of popcorn and towering soda by his side.

On Aug. 14, Gregory De La Campa told Julia he needed to go for one of his signature evening walks. Family members said that Julia wasn’t feeling up to it, but her husband eventually convinced her, ever-conscious of not wanting to fall behind on his weight loss goals. The couple had strolled up Main Street to the west crosswalk signal at the Washington Boulevard intersection. They were waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green so they could use the crosswalk. They heard the vague echo of sirens in the distance. There were no cars stopped in the traffic lane closest to them. Seconds later, Gregory De La Campa was lying almost on the other side of Main Street, with three vehicles wrecked around him.

A Roseville police officer rushed to his side and found no pulse.

Oleg Tarasuk, the man who allegedly Gregory killed De La Campa, was arrested for vehicular manslaughter. Two days later his charges were elevated to second-degree murder. Tarasuk has a prior violent conviction. The Los Cerritos Neighborhood Association has since been teaming up with Roseville resident Erika Wilson to help raise money for Gregory De La Campa’s widow. Association president Mike Hazen also helped Wilson organize the Aug. 26 candlelight vigil. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a number of Roseville residents who had never met Gregory De La Campa attended. All of his family and friends showed up wearing Batman shirts as their own personalized tribute. Candles were passed out and a moment of silence was observed for De La Campa’s life.

Afterwards, Gregory De La Campa’s mother, Lisa, spent time looking at the makeshift memorial to her son.

“It’s really difficult to know what to say right now,” Lisa said. “But it is surprising to see people come out and be here for us, and that is something we’re definitely thankful for.”

Cheryl De La Campa was also grateful for the outpouring of support.

“I’ve seen that there’s been a lot of interest because how it happened, and, I think, because of how young my brother was,” she said. “It’s very sweet people came out here. I would never deny anyone who wants to be a part of this, whether they knew him or not. And if this convinces even one person to not drink and drive, it will have been worth the community coming together tonight.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation to the Gregory De La Campa fund can visit www.giveforward.com/fundraiserforvictimofmainandwashington or contact Erika Wilson at (916) 370-1884. Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at scotta@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.