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LAPD Detectives Shared Career Paths, Friendship -- and Tragedy

Abe Barron was killed and Andy Teague badly injured when their car was hit head-on as they headed home from an assignment.

June 27, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

They came up together through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. Their careers intersected in some of Los Angeles' toughest neighborhoods, where they faced some of the city's toughest gang members.

Far from the city, on a remote stretch of desert highway, partners Abe Barron and Andy Teague were together again Wednesday in a car that was struck head-on by a pickup truck, leaving one police officer dead and his partner seriously injured.

"The two of them were returning from assignment, probably looking forward to the end of tour, of getting home to their families, and in a second it was over," Chief William J. Bratton said Thursday. "It just reminds us all how fragile life is."

The detectives were returning home from relocating a witness in a gang murder case when they were hit by the truck about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on California 138, two miles west of Interstate 15, California Highway Patrol spokesman Donald Finn said.

Abiel Barron, a 20-year LAPD veteran assigned to the Northeast Division homicide unit, died at the scene from massive internal injuries, said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Jack Richter.

His partner, Andy Teague, with 26 years on the force, was listed in critical condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was being treated for internal injuries and deep cuts to his arm, police said.

The two men, both 49, were not just partners, Bratton said. Their families, he said, were extremely close.

A San Bernardino County man has been arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter in the car crash in the Cajon Pass. Joe Albino Fernandez of Pinon Hills is accused of illegally passing another car on California 138 when he smashed into the detectives' car, Finn said.

Fernandez, 50, was treated for a broken foot. He is expected to be arraigned today and had previously been cited for speeding and driving without a seat belt, San Bernardino County Superior Court records show.

According to department officials, the friends took a similar path through the department, breaking in on patrol in the LAPD South Bureau and being promoted to detectives, where they worked gang cases together in the Newton and Northeast divisions.

Colleagues described them as outspoken and hard-nosed cops. In the early 1990s, both made the Christopher Commission's list of 44 problem officers, which examined the use of force by LAPD officers and made sweeping recommendations for reform.

But colleagues said those labels obscured the dedication and talent of men who dared to work areas and cases that others avoided. That won them respect from peers inside and outside the department, who took the news of the accident hard.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Manzella of the Major Crimes Division, who is working with Teague on two major gang murder cases, including the prosecution of the Toonerville gang leader suspected of ordering or carrying out nine murders, described Teague as a fearless cop and a gentleman.

"He's one of the finest investigators my assistant and I have ever worked with," Manzella said.

Newton Division Homicide Det. Rich Arsenega, who was stunned by the news of the crash, remembered Barron as a hard-working cop who chose to work the toughest investigations in the toughest neighborhoods.

"He used to say 'why are they always picking on me,' " Arsenega said of Barron, recalling that his sharp wit might have contributed to the unwanted attention from department brass.

Barron is survived by his wife and 13-year-old daughter.

Times staff writers Hilda Munoz and Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.

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