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Williams to Return for Officer's Rites : LAPD: Chief cuts short European vacation in the wake of collision that took the life of Gabriel Perez-Negron.


VAN NUYS — Police Chief Willie L. Williams has cut short a European vacation and will return to Los Angeles today to support grieving Van Nuys Division officers and the family of a young patrol officer who was killed in a weekend car crash, police officials said Sunday.

Williams, who was criticized last year for not returning from Las Vegas after learning that Officer Charles Heim was shot and killed in Hollywood, said in a prepared statement that he was "deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy" that also seriously injured another officer and killed a motorist.

Rookie Officer Gabriel Perez-Negron, 31, died of massive head injuries, and his training officer, Martin Guerrero, 35, a six-year veteran, was injured, when a speeding Acura ran a red light and broadsided their cruiser at about 2:45 a.m Saturday at Sherman Way and White Oak Avenue in Reseda, police said.

The driver of the Acura was identified Sunday as Tammy Danford, 29, of Canoga Park. Danford, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was believed to have been traveling at speeds up to 100 m.p.h., police said.

Williams said that "although I am on my fourth day on a personal 13-day vacation," he is returning to Los Angeles to attend the funeral for Perez-Negron and provide support to Guerrero's family.

"I extend my sympathy to Officer Perez-Negron's family and to the family of Tammy Danford," Williams said in the statement. "The loss of two lives is all too common. However, the loss of Police Officer Gabriel Perez-Negron is a loss for all of Los Angeles and especially sad because we lost him so early in his career."

LAPD Sgt. Dennis Zine, a director and treasurer of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said Williams would be fulfilling his duty as leader of the department by returning home.

"That would be appreciated by the officers within this organization. That's the proper thing to do," Zine said. "It is not above and beyond the call of duty to return after one of your officers is killed in the line of duty."

Officers at the Van Nuys Division who knew Perez-Negron continued to struggle with their sorrow Sunday, said patrol Capt. Bradley R. Merritt.

"Everybody is still in a state of shock," Merritt said. "I would say the mood is a little more somber and serious than usual."

A box on top of a table in Merritt's office contained some of Perez-Negron's personal belongings from his locker.

"It's kind of tough to walk in and the first thing you see is that," Merritt said. "It could have happened to any of us on or off duty or any citizen. It's frustrating when you see people who really don't have a grasp of the consequences of their driving."

Merritt said Perez-Negron's brother, who lives in Los Angeles, was concentrating on getting his mother here from Mexico.

"He was obviously very distraught," Merritt said. "He's in pretty much a state of shock."

Officials said Perez-Negron's funeral is expected to be held later this week. An investigation of the crash is continuing.

Merritt said Guerrero was recovering well Sunday at Northridge Hospital Medical Center from back and rib injuries.

"He's pretty much sleeping throughout the day," Merritt said.

At the accident scene, mourners left flowers, candles and a few personal messages.

"With deepest sympathy," read one card. "You gave your life for our safety. Thank you."

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