Frustrated by a slow police response, Helen Jones is seeking answers herself regarding her husband’s death.
More information has come to light related to the hit-and-run driver who killed Bruce Phillips on October 22, 2022. Since the incident, investigators with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) claim to have identified three cars involved in the crash: a white SUV (previously identified as a white pick-up truck), a silver Toyota, and a dark-colored jeep. Knock LA has received and reviewed surveillance footage from a neighbor’s security camera.
Phillips was the husband of longtime LA activist Helen Jones, who spoke to Knock LA about what she has learned since Phillips’ death. Jones was initially confused as to why Phillips did not roll over after being knocked off his bike. After studying surveillance footage, she now believes Phillips was injured after being struck by the white SUV. Initially, Jones thought Phillips had swerved to avoid impact.
“The very first person that actually hit him was that white SUV. I kept wondering, ‘Why did that SUV pull to the side the way it did?’” she says. “I realized it hit my husband and knocked him off his bike. [Bruce] didn’t roll over because he couldn’t — because he was hurt.”
In the footage, the SUV driver pulls over to the side of the road, after which two cars run Phillips over: the Toyota, which records show belongs to EZ 2 Rent a Car, and the jeep. After the other cars strike Phillips, the SUV drives away.
“[The SUV driver] could have gotten out of the car and said, ‘Woah, woah I just hit this man,’” says Helen. “He didn’t do that. He pulled over and positioned himself in case he had to run.”
Enrique Ayala, the California Highway Patrol officer investigating the case, took four days to reach out to Helen after Phillips’ death.
After Bruce died, “the investigator on the case wasn’t working for the first two days,” Jones says. “Then, once he got on the case four to five days later, he wasn’t available for two more days.”
The manager of EZ 2 Rent a Car, contacted by Knock LA on October 26, said authorities had yet to contact her and she did not know her vehicle had been involved in an accident. When Knock LA reached out again November 2, the manager told us Ayala had waited until October 31 to speak with her — eight days after Phillips’ death. He claimed that, because he works a night shift, it is difficult for him to call EZ 2 Rent a Car during their hours of operation.
Ayala did not respond to Knock LA’s request for comment. One policing expert who spoke to Knock LA says the CHP is historically slow-moving, which may partially explain the delay.
Jones says she does not understand the CHP’s slow response. “Why is my husband’s case not getting any attention? This was a murder. You all know if you don’t jump on stuff right away, people start hiding stuff, and you’re giving them a real jump to do that. I don’t understand what’s going on either, but I’m going to fight this with everything I got in me.”
She is seeking information on her own by revisiting the crash site, talking to Department of Recreation and Parks workers, and rewatching video footage for additional clues.
“This is the work I do. I’ve been doing investigative work since 2013 [in regards to] my baby John,” says Jones, referring to the death of her son John Horton at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in 2009. Law enforcement initially attributed Horton’s death to suicide, but medical reports showed signs of physical trauma, and Jones’ subsequent wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County was settled for $2 million in 2016.
“If I wouldn’t have done everything that I had to with my son and have the evidence I have, my lawyers wouldn’t even have it,” she says.
In light of Phillips’ death, Jones hopes to raise awareness of the lack of safety precautions in place near Ted Watkins Memorial Park.
“I have to make some right come out of this for my husband,” she says, “and to make sure nobody else gets killed on that street. I can’t bring my husband back, but we can save another life by putting some speed bumps there. I don’t understand why the city never did that on the side of the park. What about the kids coming out of the community? [The city] should have put some kind of stop sign or something to slow the traffic down.”
Jones says she is currently trying to put together a reward for anyone with information on Phillips’ killers. In the meantime, she encourages anyone with information to come forward.
“We really need everyone’s help with trying to identify the drivers of these three cars,” she says. “We really need this support.”
If you have any information on the case, please reach out to Knock LA.