Saturday, March 8, 2014
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A veteran Los Angeles police officer was killed and his rookie partner was critically injured Friday when their patrol car collided with a big rig on a residential street. The truck driver also was injured.
The Hollywood division officers were responding to a call of unknown trouble when the "catastrophic" collision occurred, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.
The circumstances of the 8 a.m. crash in an area of narrow, curving residential streets were under investigation.
The county coroner's office identified the slain officer as Nicholas Choung Lee, 40.
Lee, a 16-year veteran, left behind a wife and two young daughters, the LAPD said.
"Nick was a great cop. His hard work, dedication and leadership helped mold young police officers into law enforcement professionals," Beck said.
Lee was training a rookie who was only three months out of the police academy when their cruiser collided with a truck hauling a trash container and carrying a Bobcat loader down a steep road, authorities said.
The patrol car was torn apart and practically demolished in the crash.
The truck, which wound up on its side, may have lost its brakes on the hill, Beck said.
The driver and the rookie were both injured but will survive, he said.
"She is alert, in considerable pain" but didn't require surgery, the chief said. "She has a tremendous heart. She is determined to recover from her injuries."
The driver was hospitalized in serious condition, authorities said.
Police Commission President Steve Soboroff visited the injured officer in the hospital, where she was surrounded by friends and family.
"She was wearing a neck brace and she said she had a concussion and she had some bruises on her face and she's remarkably lucid," he said. "Everyone in the room feels that she is the luckiest unlucky person in the world" for surviving the horrendous crash, Soboroff said.
"She's strong and she's going to make it through this," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. He ordered city flags lowered to half-staff to honor Lee.
"We grieve a hero this morning, an officer who gave his life in the service of Los Angeles," Garcetti said.
Shortly before 12:30 p.m., police officers moved a flag-covered gurney carrying the officer's body from the accident scene to an ambulance between long rows of saluting officers. A circle of firefighters, their helmets doffed in respect, watched beside a fire engine.
Lee's body was taken to the coroner's office, where it again passed through lines of saluting colleagues.
Although the crash site at Robert Lane and Loma Vista Drive is in the city of Beverly Hills, it is immediately adjacent to sections of Los Angeles. The area is close to the landmark Greystone Mansion, a 1920s estate built by an oil tycoon.