Crime & Courts

Columbia student killed by Florida man who confessed, apologized and pleads not guilty

Columbia native London Harrell died after the UCF student was hit by a driver charged with DUI.
Columbia native London Harrell died after the UCF student was hit by a driver charged with DUI. Facebook Screen Grab

In the days after London Harrell was killed, the man charged with her death said he was sorry and confessed to being intoxicated.

In spite of those admissions, Yousuf Hasan is pleading not guilty to multiple DUI charges following the death of the 21-year-old from Columbia.

On Oct. 29, the 25-year-old Florida man pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, and leaving the scene of a fatal crash, the Orange County Clerk’s Office said in an interview with The State.

Hasan was arrested on June 22, after hitting Harrell with the vehicle he was driving, The State reported.

Yousuf Hasan is charged in the death of London Harrell, a Spring Valley High School graduate. Orange County Jail

The Spring Valley High School graduate was “walking well into the grass lawn” on the campus of the University of Central Florida, where she attended college, when she was struck by Hasan’s car, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Harrell’s injuries were so severe she died days later, The State reported on June 28.

Following the crash, Hasan drove off and was found “sleeping on the ground behind his car in a parking lot,” WKMG reported.

There was damage to the windshield of his car where blood was found, along with hair that matched Harrell’s color, according to Knight News.

Highway Patrol said Hasan “had bloodshot, glassy eyes, slurred speech and was stumbling” after failing a field sobriety test and was arrested, per WFTV.

After leaving a courtroom in June, Hasan said “Deeply, I’m sorry,” according to the TV station. “I was intoxicated. I was not aware.”

In spite of pleas from Harrell’s father, Michael Harrell, a judge released Hasan on $11,500 bond prior to the 21-year-old’s death, according to WKMG.

After Harrell died and Hasan’s charges were upgraded, he was again released on bond, after posting $75,000 bail with specific conditions, Knight News reported. In addition to surrendering his passport, and having no contact with the Harrell’s family, Hasan was ordered not to consume any alcohol and agreed to wear an alcohol monitoring device on his ankle that detects the presence of alcohol in sweat, according to the news outlet.

But in September, a circuit court judge ruled that Hasasn tampered with the monitor, and prosecutors said he tested positive for THC the night of the collision, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Rather than revoke his bond and lock him up, as Harrell’s mother Paula Cobb hoped, the judge released Hasan again with instructions he must follow a curfew, and ordered him to take random urine tests for alcohol and drug use, per the newspaper.

His choices killed our daughter,” Cobb said in September, WESH reported. “He is a proven danger to our community with a deadly, violent drug- and gun-related past.”

An attorney for Harrell’s family said Hasan has been previously arrested on drug charges, and court documents showed he is a member of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods street gang, according to Knight News.

And the collision with Harrell was not the only wreck that night for Hasan.

Highway Patrol said minutes before Harrell was hit, Hasan’s car lost its front bumper after he crashed into another car and drove away, WKMG reported.

Harrell was a rising senior at UCF, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority majoring in hospitality management. Prior to the crash, she had returned to the university for summer classes after an internship in Amsterdam.

Cobb has asked for support as she represents her daughter.

In addition to seeking justice for her in court, Cobb has launched a hashtag — #livelikelondon — and a foundation with the same name.

The idea of the hashtag is to celebrate the power of loving and living without fear by doing good deeds for others on a daily basis.

According to its website, the foundation was established to help families in the unfortunate situation of having a family member in a traumatic accident; to improve the access and ease of seeking urgent care second opinions; and to assist families with improved victim services.

“A princess at heart — she was always ready to go on the next adventure, not afraid of anything, loved traveling and spending time with her friends,” the #livelikelondon website said of its namesake. “Always quick-witted, kind-hearted with a smile that would glow even after she left the room.”

To date, the foundation said it has raised thousands for charities, and provides the ability to donate to the Children’s Miracle Network, which was Harrell’s passion, according to the site.

Cobb also said she was thrilled to announce that an award in the Miss Spring Valley pageant has been named in Harrell’s honor. The London Harrell Miss Spirit Award is given to the contestant who raises the most money for charity.

“She would be so proud and we hope the contestants will realize that building each other up and feeling good about yourself is what this was always about!” Cobb said on Facebook of the pageant that named her daughter was Miss Viking Spirit in 2014.

Expect that Cobb and Michael Harrell will continue to fight for their daughter as a trial for Hasan moves closer.

The Florida man is scheduled to appear in court later this month for a pretrial conference before the trial is scheduled to begin on Dec, 9, according to the Orange County Clerk’s Office.

We will do everything we can to make sure your voice is heard and your kindness shines through us,” Cobb said in a Facebook post with the hashtag celebrating her daughter.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.