DOWNEY -- A deadly traffic collision over the weekend has left Downey, and more specifically, its veteran community, in mourning.
According to Downey Police, the crash occurred Saturday at approximately 7:53 pm when a motorcyclist traveling southbound on Paramount Boulevard collided with a black midsize SUV that was exiting the driveway of 11917 Paramount Blvd.
The motorcyclist, later identified by friends and family as 30-year-old Downey resident Calvin Spencer, died at the scene.
The driver of the SUV is described by authorities as a 79-year-old female resident of Downey. She has cooperated with the investigation and is not believed to have been driving under the influence, according to Downey Police Sgt. Jaime Pelayo.
However, Pelayo added that the investigation is still ongoing and there could be potential vehicular manslaughter charges pressed pending investigation findings.
Spencer was a Marine veteran and co-founder of Bastard’s American Canteen in Downtown Downey.
The unexpected tragedy has left many in the community shaken. Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez described Spencer as “a gentle-giant that was constantly willing to help.”
“This is a tremendous loss for our veteran community in Downey,” said Rodriguez. “Calvin was a great young man that was a Downey purebred.
“To be killed in a car accident is beyond a tragedy. But I’ll tell you that Calvin left a wonderful legacy of Marines and other service members by creating the Magnificent Bastards restaurant. By creating that restaurant and location, they provided a location for all members of all branches and their families to come and eat and celebrate their time in the service and celebrate America. Calvin’s legacy will live on, I’ll make sure of it.”
The restaurant released a statement via Facebook the day following the accident, saying:
“Rest in Peace Calvin Spencer, our co-founder. Prayers go out to your family and friends. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closed today. Last night, we lossed [sic] a great Marine due to a motor vehicle accident. On behalf of the Bastards family, we are asking to respect his family’s privacy and add them to your thoughts and prayers. Love you Calvin. You will be sincerely missed.”
Bastards remained closed on Monday, with a small memorial consisting of flowers, candles, and other items accumulating outside the front door. Several individuals could be seen walking up to the front entrance to leave different gifts and tributes as well as to pay their respects.
On the inside, the restaurant was dark and empty save for a handful of Spencer’s former business partners and Marines, huddled around a few tables with beers in hand.
“Calvin’s our brother,” said Nick Velez, a Marine veteran who opened Bastards with Spencer. “He was more than just a restaurant partner, he was more than just a guy that I served with. He was my brother, so this hurts us in every level.”
Howie Sackett, who went to Warren High School with Spencer and served in the Marines with him, said that “Calvin would be the guy that we’d be going to right now.”
“He was kind of the glue; he was such a chill person and he brought a lot of balance I think in everybody’s life,” said Sackett. “He really didn’t think in a negative way. I don’t think anybody would have a negative thing to say about him…in the shittiest times he’d always still make you laugh.”
Manny Maeda, co-operator of Bastards, added that Spencer could “embrace the suck.”
“In the midst of chaos and friction and everything that revolves around work and personal life, we truly saw Calvin as a support system, a cushion, a go-to because every single day his mindset was always a positive one no matter what it was, no matter what decision we had to make,” said Maeda. “Every single day I leaned on him to be able to solve any issue I had. He was that guy for me.”
Maj. Scott Huesing, former Commanding Officer of Echo Company 2nd Battalion 4th Marines who Spencer served under, knew Spencer for about 12 years.
“As Calvin’s company commander, as we trained and fought in Ramadi, Iraq – which was some of the bloodiest fighting in the war – to say that I knew every Marine in my company at a level wouldn’t be true…Calvin was one of those Marines that really stood out,” said Huesing.
“You’re always told you shouldn’t have favorites in your company as the leader, but like many, Calvin was one of my favorites because of that likeability, and that positive energy that he had and his ability to connect with everyone around him."
Velez says that he doesn’t know when Bastards will reopen, opting to “take care of our brothers first,” with Maeda adding that they’re “taking it day by day.”
“I hate to say this, but you take your friendship for granted sometimes,” said Velez. “When they’re gone, you know what part they played in the team…because you’re never going to get that back.
“The man, the friend, the business partner, the brother that made everything mesh well is gone. This nation lost a great f---ing man on Saturday, and they’ll never know it but he played a big part in where we are here today.
"I can’t come into work, they can’t come in here without having Calvin Spencer stamped all over it…it’ll never be the same without him.”
A scholarship fund has been set up in Spencer's name, with proceeds benefiting qualified veterans and children of veterans seeking education or training in the culinary arts. Donations can be made here.