Paul Stojanovich, the creator of the pioneer police reality series "Cops," died March 15 after falling 300 feet from a cliff into the ocean in Oregon. He was 47.
Stojanovich's body has not been recovered, said Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson.
A Portland resident, Stojanovich had spent the night with his fiance, Kimberly Crowell, in a motor home overlooking his favorite spot, Treasure Cove, just north of the small town of Manzanita, Ore. The next morning, the couple went for a hike.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 16, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 85 words Type of Material: Correction
Stojanovich obituary -- An obituary of TV producer Paul Stojanovich that appeared in the California section April 5 stated that he was the creator of the police reality series "Cops." Actually, producers John Langley and Malcolm Barbour share credit as the creators of "Cops." Stojanovich served first as a co-producer of the show and then as producer for part of the second and third seasons. The obituary also incorrectly stated that Stojanovich produced several Geraldo Rivera specials. In fact, he served as an associate producer.
Crowell said Stojanovich stood on a large, exposed tree root that jutted out over the cove to have his picture taken by her. Just after Crowell snapped the picture, she said, Stojanovich slipped on the rain-slick root and fell.
Members of the Tillamook County Sheriff's Department and Coast Guard helicopters searched for three hours, but found no sign of Stojanovich's body.
"We lose fishermen yearly and have bodies that are never recovered," Anderson said. "The ocean was absolutely churning -- it's a 300-foot drop anyway down to the rocks -- and the surf was very high that day."
The landmark "Cops" series, which Stojanovich originally produced, debuted in 1989 and continues to air on Fox.
"He was the creator of the modern reality genre," said Bob Ballantyne, Stojanovich's brother-in-law and chief executive of Stojanovich's production company.
Ballantyne said Stojanovich "personalized law enforcement" with "Cops."
"By riding along with cops and letting them express their feelings and the action in their own words without a host or narrator, you really experience what it is like to be a police officer," he said.
For Stojanovich, that meant going along for the ride.
"He was the totally hands-on producer," Ballantyne said. "He was not one to sit behind the desk, and on all the shows it was almost like Alfred Hitchcock: You'd see him on the front lines with the police officers, wearing flak jackets and jumping out of cars and rushing into buildings. He would have been a full-time police officer if he wasn't a filmmaker."
Stojanovich, an avid bicyclist, moved to Portland with his two sons in 1993. He commuted to Los Angeles, where his production company is producing "World's Wildest Police Videos" for Fox.
Born in Sacramento, Stojanovich took up photography in his early teens and won several awards in the Bay Area for his pictures. He dropped out of high school in San Jose as a junior and attended the Berkeley Film Institute, followed by additional film classes at San Jose State.
In 1978, he produced the Emmy Award-winning documentary "Narco," a look at the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department's undercover drug unit, which aired on ABC affiliates in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
To gain the trust of the police and to better understand their lives, Stojanovich attended the San Jose Police Academy. He never lost his fascination with police work, and at the time of his death was a special reserve police officer in Beaverton, Ore.
In the early 1980s, Stojanovich began working as a news cameraman for KRON-TV in San Francisco.
Before launching "Cops," he produced several "20-20" specials with Geraldo Rivera, including penetrating the Persian heroin trade for "Chasing the Dragon," as well as "The New Mafia: Sons of Scarface" and "American Vice: The Doping of America." He also produced Rivera's jailhouse interview with Charles Manson.
Stojanovich produced the first two seasons of "Cops," then created and executive-produced "American Detectives" on ABC from 1991 to 1993. He later produced several specials for Fox, including "World's Scariest Police Chases," "World's Scariest Police Stings" and "Surviving the Moment of Impact."
In addition to his fiance, Stojanovich is survived by two sons, Chet and Paul Jr.; and a sister, Diane Ballantyne.
A memorial service will be held at noon Monday at New Hope Community Church in Portland. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Shriner's Hospital for Children, 3101 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239.