A 27-year-old El Paso police officer just nine months out of the police academy was killed Sunday morning while trying to remove a ladder from Interstate 10.
Officer Angel Garcia was struck when he was outside of his patrol vehicle trying to remove the ladder that was in the roadway on Interstate 10 East across from Cielo Vista Mall near the Hawkins exit, police spokesman Detective Mike Baranyay said.
Garcia had graduated from the police academy in March, Baranyay said.
He was assigned to the Mission Valley Regional Command day shift. Garcia served in the Marine Corps before joining the El Paso Police Department.
Garcia responded to a call of a traffic hazard at about 7 a.m. Sunday. He located the ladder and
stopped his vehicle in the lane of traffic with his overhead emergency lights going, Baranyay said.
He exited the vehicle and ended up being struck in a chain reaction at about 7:15 a.m. that involved a semi-truck, a Ford Explorer, a Hyundai Elantra and his own marked police car.
Garcia was taken to Del Sol Medical Center where he died, Baranyay said.
No charges have been filed nor any citations issued in the case, Baranyay said. Alcohol has been ruled out as a possible cause, though, he added. The investigation continues.
"Any time you have a call along the interstate, it's dangerous, just because of the speed of the vehicles involved," Baranyay said.
Two adults in the Ford Explorer -- Amado Ancheta, 70,
and Teresita Ancheta, 56, both of Katy, Texas -- were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No other injuries were reported.
Police Sgt. Chris Mears, another police spokesman, said more police officers die nationally each year because of traffic accidents than because of violence committed against them.
Baranyay said the department's policy is to pick up roadway debris "as safely as possible when it needs to be done."
"They do receive training in ways to do that," Baranyay said. "We remove debris from freeways and regular roadways on a daily basis."
Twenty-five other El Paso police officers have died in the line of duty dating to 1883, according to the department's Web site.
The last police officer killed in El Paso was Patrolman Jonathan Molina who died Oct. 5, 2012, nine days after suffering a fractured skull, internal head injuries and facial fractures when he was beaten unconscious while off duty. He was responding to vandalism of his personal vehicle and was taking police action when he was attacked.
Patrolman Karl R. McDonough died on Oct. 13, 2010, when he was hit by an alleged drunken driver who ran a red light and crashed into his patrol car.
Police are seeking information on how the ladder ended up on the interstate. Anyone with information is urged to call police at the nonemergency number at 832-4400 or Crime Stoppers at 566-8477.
Funeral arrangements are pending for Officer Garcia.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service