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Veteran Officer Killed in Freak Firearm Accident

Tragedy: He was crossing the San Fernando police station parking lot when he dropped his gun and it fired. An investigation is underway.

July 18, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and MANUEL GAMIZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A San Fernando police officer was killed Wednesday when he accidentally dropped his service pistol and it discharged, the bullet striking him in the head, authorities said.

Jesse Kenneth Paderez, 46, of Sylmar, a 10-year veteran of the San Fernando Police Department, had apparently been carrying his holstered .45-caliber gun in his hands as he walked through the department parking lot early Wednesday, police said.

Paderez had stopped at the station about 6:45 a.m. to pick up a patrol car and was scheduled to attend a training class on radar use later that morning, Lt. Mike Langston said.

"The gun was secured in the holster but he was carrying it in his hands, most likely along with other items," Langston said. "The hammer of the gun struck the ground when it dropped and discharged. We believe it was a freak accident."

Langston said police are investigating how the firearm discharged and whether safety mechanisms worked properly.

Chief Anthony Alba said an investigation by Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives resulted in a preliminary determination that the death was accidental.

"It's something that shouldn't happen but could happen," said Alba, who took over the 39-officer department in May. "But it all hurts the same."

Paderez was the third officer in the department's 91-year history to die in the line of duty, police said.

Paderez had seven sisters and five brothers. Officers and a sister described him as a dedicated officer who was an avid runner and relished coaching and mentoring young people.

"He was highly dedicated to children and working with them meant a lot to him" said Jeri Arriaga, a sister and a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. "It's like losing half of your heart."

Arriaga said several family members have entered law enforcement. One brother, Ernesto, worked for the Los Angeles Police Department but died 11 years ago in a traffic accident, Arriaga and Langston said.

At the San Fernando Police Station, the mood was somber. Officer Al Martinez said he was stunned by his friend's death.

"He was always very cautious," Martinez said.

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