Colleagues were mourning an officer who died after being struck by an SUV during a pursuit. It marked the third loss for the LAPD this year. Kate Larsen reports from Harbor City for the NBC4 News at 11 on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
Authorities have identified an LAPD officer who was killed Saturday morning after the police car he and his partner were in was struck by an SUV as they were pursuing another car.
“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I announce the death of Roberto Sanchez, killed in the line of duty this morning," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said during a news conference.
Sanchez, who was assigned to the Harbor Division, was a six-year veteran of the department. The Santa Ana native is survived by his wife, whom he married three months ago.
About 3:45 a.m. Saturday, Sanchez and his partner were pursuing a car near Anaheim Street and President Avenue in Harbor City. When the officers made a U-turn during the pursuit, their patrol car was broadsided by the SUV, police said.
"Our understanding is our officers were following the vehicle at a high rate of speed on Anaheim," LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said. "As they negotiated a U-turn, their vehicle was hit by a Chevy Tahoe."
The two officers were trapped inside the mangled police car and had to be extricated, officials said.
"We received a cellular phone call from one of the officers involved in the collision because he wasn't able to get to his police radio to put out a help call. That's how violent the collision was," Lt. John Pasquariello said.
Sanchez, 32, was taken to the hospital in critical condition but succumbed to his injuries, officials said.
His partner, identified as Officer Richard Medina, suffered serious injuries, including a broken jaw, but was in stable condition, officials said. He was expected to survive.
The occupants of the SUV abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene, police said. The 26-year-old driver was later apprehended and questioned by police.
Police said no arrests had been made, but they identified two people of interest.
"There is a possibility of drugs or alcohol involved, but we haven't been able to determine that for sure," Pasquariello said.
Police were searching for the driver of the Chevrolet Camaro that was initially pursued.
Anaheim Street was closed off between Senator and President avenues during the investigation.
Sanchez is the eighth LAPD officer from Harbor Division to die in the line of duty.
A memorial with flowers was set up at the station.
The fatal crash marks the third time this year that an LAPD officer has been killed in a traffic collision. Officers Nicholas Lee died in March and motorcycle officer Chris Cortijo was killed in a wreck in April.
"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," Smith said. "It’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy sometimes for us to learn things."
Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered city flags lowered to half-staff.
"This third loss of an officer in the line of duty in just two months is a stark and tragic reminder of the dangers our first responders face every day," Garcetti said in a statement.
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, extended his condolences to Sanchez's family and wished for his partner's speedy recovery .
"Today the world has lost a true hero," Izen said. "Roberto will be greatly missed as a protector of our society and even more as a person."
"Californians will not forget Officer Sanchez’s service to his community and the sacrifice of the family he’s left behind,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.
In an unrelated incident, Beck announced that another LAPD officer died of a heart condition overnight.