LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Former New Orleans Hornets player Rasual Butler and his wife were killed in a solo-vehicle, high-speed crash in a Los Angeles neighborhood early Wednesday morning, officials said.
The couple was in a newer model Range Rover when it crashed at about 2:25 a.m. The SUV was traveling westbound on Ventura Boulevard when the vehicle lost control, hit multiple parking meters, slammed into a wall, overturned and ended up in a parking lot, authorities said.
Video from the scene showed the mangled wreckage of the Range Rover in the parking lot of a strip mall containing a Marshall’s, a Michaels and other stores.
Both occupants were pronounced dead at the scene, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Andy Neiman said.
Butler played for the Hornets (now the Pelicans) for four years, from 2005 to 2009.
The Pelicans released the following statement in response to Butler’s death.
The Pelicans are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Rasual was a consummate professional and a kind, caring and passionate person who was endeared in the New Orleans community. Our prayers are with their families and loved ones pic.twitter.com/Anc7wZoMJ4
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 31, 2018
The L.A. County coroner’s office identified Butler but did not release the name of the woman killed in the crash. She was later identified as Leah LaBelle by the Clippers, which released a statement in the wake of Butler’s death.
“The L.A. Clippers are deeply saddened by the loss of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle,” the statement read. “Rasual will long be remembered not only for his accomplishments on the court, but for his vibrant personality, positive outlook and the compassion he had for everyone around him.”
Butler, who was drafted by the Miami Heat in 2002, played for several NBA teams during his lengthy professional basketball career, including the Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, and San Antonio Spurs. He last played in the league in 2016.
It was unclear if Butler was behind the wheel or a passenger in the Range Rover.
Neiman told KTLA there is a sharp or gradual curve near the crash site, and the posted speed limit goes from 35 to 30 mph in that stretch. Based on the damage of the vehicle, he said it appeared the SUV was going “well in excess” of the posted speed limit, estimating it was traveling at least 60 mph and as high as 90 mph.
A witness observed the vehicle driving at a high rate of speed but told police that no other cars appeared to on the road at the time, according to Neiman. Based on the witness account, investigators do not believe the SUV was involved in an illegal street race, he added.
The incident is under investigation, and it is too early to tell whether drugs or alcohol were a factor, according to Neiman.
“It appears to be a tragic case of a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, unsafe for that condition,” he said. “Speed is something all of us have control over. This is an incident that didn’t have to happen.”
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of Rasual and Leah. They will be missed. pic.twitter.com/djezmpHd5h
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 31, 2018