Reggie Kumar, Beth Slepp-Paz
The death of a Los Angeles police officer Saturday marked the third time an officer was killed in a traffic collision this year. Reggie Kumar reports from Harbor City for the NBC4 News at 5 on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
The death of a police officer Saturday marked the third traffic-related fatality for the Los Angeles Police Department this year.
LAPD investigators plan to closely examine all three crashes to try and determine what can be done differently to protect the lives of officers.
"The fact that we had three officers killed in just a couple of months here, all of them from traffic collisions, it has a profound effect on everybody in this department," said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith. "It's unfortunate that it takes a tragedy sometimes for us to learn things."
Officer Roberto Sanchez, 32, died after an early-morning collision in Harbor City. Sanchez, a six-year veteran of the LAPD, was in a pursuit when his patrol car was broadsided by an SUV that was unrelated to the car chase, police said. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but succumbed to his injuries. Sanchez was survived by his wife, whom he had married three months ago.
On April 5, Officer Chris Cortijo, a 26-year veteran and former Marine, was struck by the driver of an SUV as he waited on his patrol motorcycle at a red light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street. He died just days later. Cortijo, 51, was twice named officer of the year, most recently in 2013 when he made 171 DUI arrests.
On March 7, Training Officer Nicholas Choung Lee, 40, died when the patrol vehicle he was in collided with a dump truck in Beverly Hills. Lee left behind a wife and two young daughters. He was a 16-year veteran of the department and received more than 70 commendations.
"Unfortunately for us lately, tragedy has struck just too many times," Smith said.
Smith said the death of three LAPD police officers involved in a wrong-way crash in 1988 also had a profound effect on the department back then. The crash led to department policy changes.
The last LAPD officer who was killed in a traffic collision before Lee was Landon Dorris in 2006.