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L.A. memorial held for CHP officer killed on freeway

Posted: June 30, 2010 9:28 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Fellow law enforcement officers salute at the funeral of California Highway Patrol officer Philip Dennis Ortiz at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels on Wednesday.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the West gathered Wednesday to mourn one of five California Highway Patrol officers who have died in the line of duty in a span of less than two months.

CHP colleagues in green and tan uniforms lifted the flag-covered coffin of Officer Philip Ortiz, 48, and carried it into the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said the funeral Mass.

Ortiz, a Valencia resident, died last week of injuries suffered June 9 when he was struck by a car while issuing a ticket to a motorist on the shoulder of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. He was pinned against the sport utility vehicle he had stopped.

Ortiz’s wife, Jessica, spoke during the service, noting her husband died 13 days after he was injured.

“Thirteen for me is a very lucky number,” she said. “I was born Oct. 13. We became boyfriend and girlfriend May 13 of ‘79, our prom night. And we had 13 more days — I had 13 more days — to say goodbye.”

Assistant CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley, who was Ortiz’s partner after they graduated from the academy, said officers lost a friend and partner who served in an exemplary way.

“He will live on in our hearts and minds, and he will never be forgotten,” Stanley said.

Ortiz, a 28-year veteran of the CHP, was among five CHP officers killed since May 7, making 2010 the deadliest year for the CHP in more than a decade.

Three of those killed were struck after stopping cars.

“Every time you make a traffic stop, you are putting yourself at risk,” CHP Sgt. Mark Garrett said outside the cathedral. “That risk is someone not paying attention, someone falling asleep, someone under the influence, someone careless may take your life.”

CHP statistics show that 220 CHP officers have died in the line of duty.

Officer Brett Oswald, 47, of Paso Robles, was killed Sunday while waiting for a tow truck to remove an abandoned vehicle from a road near Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. A woman lost control of her Toyota Corolla and rear-ended the 21-year veteran’s patrol car, officials said.

A memorial service for Oswald is scheduled Friday in Paso Robles.

Also Sunday, Officer Justin McGrory, 28, of Victorville, was struck and killed after he stopped a car on Interstate 15 in the San Bernardino County desert town of Barstow.

On Tuesday, the driver accused of hitting him, 18-year-old Rafael Garcia, of Las Vegas, pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence, child endangerment and transportation of marijuana.

No one has been charged in the deaths of Ortiz or Oswald pending further investigation.

Motorcycle Officer Tom Coleman, 33, of Fontana, died June 11 after hitting a tractor-trailer while chasing a car at speeds of up to 100 mph in Redlands. The driver was arrested for investigation of murder and other charges.

CHP pilot Danny Benavides, 39, died May 7 in a plane crash in Imperial County while on observation patrol.

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