A Ventura County Sheriff's deputy killed Tuesday morning in a hit-and-run crash involving a driver suspected of DUI was identified as an 11-year department veteran who pursued his passion for law enforcement after coming to the United States from Ukraine.
Deputy Eugene Kostiuchenko, 41, was just wrapping up a traffic stop near the Lewis Road on-ramp on the northbound 101 Freeway in Camarillo at about 1:15 a.m. when he was struck and killed by a Honda. The driver involved in the traffic stop was allowed to leave the scene and Kostkiuchenko was hit as he walked back to his patrol vehicle.
"He was finishing up that traffic stop and was about to get into his car when he was struck," said Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow.
The driver "narrowly missed" other deputies who had just arrived at the location to help with the traffic stop, Buschow added.
The hit-and-run driver later crashed on the northbound 101 Freeway near Las Posas Road. The 25-year-old driver, identified early Tuesday as Camarillo resident Kevin Hogrefe, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, felony DUI and felony hit-and-run, according to authorities.
Kostiuchenko was originally from Ukraine, and worked for Ventura County's Emergency Preparedness Office. Colleagues said he wanted to become a deputy and became a U.S. citizen to be able to do so.
Kostkiuchenko is survived by his wife and two sons.
Co-workers described him as a "character" and "an incredible man to be around." He was working his usual 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift when the collision occurred.
"This is just tragic," said Buschow. "What can you say? It shouldn't happen -- it shouldn't happen to anybody.
"This is a huge loss."
A U.S. flag was placed over the deputy's body as it was transported to a coroner's office van. Deputies placed black bands over their badges in memory of Kostiuchenko.
"When it involves a drunk driver who lives in the community, it has to have a significant impact," said Sheriff Geoff Dean. "It's so sad to lose a life. I've been standing out here all morning on the freeway -- you look up and you realize he's gone."
Hogrefe's bond was set at $100,000. He has a prior DUI conviction in Nevada, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
Flags at the state capitol building in Sacramento were lowered to half-staff in honor of Kostiuchenko, Gov. Jerry Brown said.
"Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of Deputy Kostiuchenko as they mourn this tragic loss," Brown said in a statement. "We will not forget Deputy Kostiuchenko’s service to the people of this state."
NBC4's Samia Khan contributed to this report.