HARBOR CITY (CBSLA.com) — Authorities say one of two police officers, who were injured in a hit-and-run collision in Harbor City on Saturday morning, has died.
The fatal accident happened about 3:45 a.m. Saturday at Anaheim Street, near President Avenue.
“At first, I heard a car speeding around. He was doing doughnuts or something like that,” said Daron Sizer, a witness. “Like ten minutes later, and that’s when you hear all the sirens coming out of nowhere.”
“The collision was so violent they weren’t able to go to their police radios. They had to phone the station via their cellphones,” LAPD Lt. John Pasquariello told KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz.
According to investigators, the officers were on routine patrol when they began following a white Chevy Camaro that was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed.
“They followed that vehicle for a short distance. That vehicle made a U-turn and our officers subsequently made a U-turn. When they made that U-turn, the police vehicle was collided into by a Chevy Tahoe,” said Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andrew Smith.
“The driver of that Chevy Tahoe fled. An individual that we believed involved in that has been detained,” the commander said. He was transported to an area hospital as were the officers. His condition was not known. Cmdr. Smith said the driver of the Camaro also fled.
“The latest information, unfortunately, is that one of the officers in this collision has passed away at the hospital,” said Cmdr. Smith.
The second officer was in critical but stable condition. Police said he sustained a broken jaw, among other injuries.
“It’s another terrible tragedy for our department. Three officers now killed in traffic collisions in just the past couple of months. It’s tough for all of us,” the commander added.
Police identified the officer killed as Roberto Sanchez. Sanchez had been with the force for about six years.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of LAPD Officer Roberto Sanchez. Officer Sanchez died a hero, but that does not lessen the blow to his family and fellow officers,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “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. It is with a heavy heart that I am again ordering the city’s flags to half staff.”
Chief Beck said Officer Sanchez is survived by his wife.
CBS2’s Art Barron said the critically injured officer has been identified as Richard Medina, a six-year veteran of the force. He worked out of the Harbor Division for the past two years, Barron reported.
Sources told Barron that Medina and Sanchez, in addition to being partners, were also “best friends.”
Both Medina and Sanchez were married, neither man has children.
Governor Jerry Brown ordered flags flown at half staff in Sacramento in honor of the fallen officer.
In a statement he said, “Californians will not forget Officer Sanchez’s service to his community and the sacrifice of the family he’s left behind.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also issued a statement.
“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.It is with a heavy heart that I am again ordering the city’s flags to half staff,” Garcetti wrote.
Late Saturday evening, police told KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen that they had “two people of interest” in custody but no arrests had yet been made.
Robbery homicide detectives told Nguyen that Sanchez and Medina were originally called to the area after neighbors reported hearing the sound of screeching tires in the area.
Chief Beck said the department also lost a 35-year veteran named George Nagata late Friday night in an unrelated incident.
“George fell ill on duty, was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to a heart condition,” Beck said. “So last night, two Los Angeles police officers died. One in a tragic hit-and-run collision, and the other, due to a heart condition.”