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Officer killed in Beverly Hills truck crash

Posted: May 10, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Updated: May 10, 2014 6:00 a.m.

A police officer pulls the gurney carrying the body of an off-duty police officer, who was killed in an accident with a cement truck, in Beverly Hills on Friday.

 

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A cement truck smashed into a pickup truck Friday, killing an off-duty Los Angeles police detective on the same steep road where another truck accident killed an LAPD policeman two months ago.

The collision occurred shortly before 2 p.m. in the 1000-block of Loma Vista Drive. It seriously injured the cement truck driver and prompted authorities to bar heavy traffic from the road, a scenic two-lane street that winds among an area of mansions — some of them still under construction.

At a news conference, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he was "stunned into disbelief" when he learned the crash location was the same road where another LAPD officer was killed in March.

"It's just too horrific for words," he said.

Beck said it appears that the cement truck lost control and crossed into the oncoming lane.

The detective who was killed was a 25-year veteran and worked in the LAPD's Southwest Division but had "off-duty employment" in the area and regularly traveled the road, Beck said. His name was not immediately released.

Televised reports showed the shattered wreckage of the cement truck. Its mixer apparently became separated from the truck body in the crash, while the pickup truck was smashed.

Hours after the crash, two rows of police officers and firefighters stood at attention and saluted as the flag-draped body of their colleague passed between their ranks and was placed in a Los Angeles County coroner's van. Police cars escorted the van to the morgue.

It was the third crash on the road involving a heavy truck in two months. A week ago, another cement truck overturned and struck several parked cars, injuring the driver.

On March 7, a runaway truck hauling a trash container struck a Los Angeles patrol car, killing Officer Nicholas Lee, a 16-year veteran, and injuring another officer.

Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden said heavy trucks have now been barred from the street for 30 days while the city looks at ways of preventing further accidents.

Trucks over 3 tons already are prohibited on the street, which has a runaway truck ramp at the bottom.

Snowden said he believes overloaded trucks or faulty brakes might contribute to accidents on the road.

"We're going to start weighing trucks as they come in here" but it still might be difficult to deal with the situation, he said.

"We could set motor officers up here all day and write tickets, but how's a motor officer going to stop a truck coming down the hill at 70 mph with no brakes?" he said. "So the issue is not speed on the street as much as it is the heavy traffic on the street."

The two-lane road curves through a tree-lined segment of the exclusive, affluent Trousdale Estates area, which boasts multimillion-dollar homes.

"It's a pretty long street. They have a number of homes under construction," Beverly Hills police Sgt. Jay Kim said. "This is Beverly Hills. ... They're always fixing up their homes."

Neighbors have voiced concerns about commercial vehicles using the road and surrounding streets, and it is a "critical public safety issue," a city statement said.

Since the beginning of the year, police have significantly stepped up traffic enforcement in the area and set up two speed radar trailers on Loma Vista, the city said.

The officer's death follows the death of Lee and two other on-duty LAPD officers in recent weeks.

Officer Roberto Sanchez died May 3 in Los Angeles after his patrol car was broadsided while chasing a speeding car. The driver was charged with murder.

Last month, 51-year-old motorcycle officer Chris Cortijo was struck and killed by a driver alleged to have been under the influence of cocaine.

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement that said the city "is still reeling" from the other three officer deaths, "and my heart aches at the death today of yet another of our officers."

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