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CHP Officer Is Killed in Collision

Twenty-year veteran of the force was chasing a driver who is alleged to have fled the scene of an accident at DMV office in Redlands.

June 04, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

A veteran California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, awarded a Medal of Valor for rescuing a man during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was killed in Redlands on Thursday while chasing a driver who allegedly left the scene of an accident, authorities said.

James Goodman, 48, had his lights and sirens blaring when he entered an intersection and collided with a minivan at 12:15 p.m. The driver of the van was not involved in the chase, and, as of Thursday evening, had not been charged.

Goodman was pursuing a woman driving a Mercedes-Benz after she was involved in an accident just outside the state Department of Motor Vehicles office in Redlands, said CHP spokesman Lee Nuez.

Police do not have the woman's license plate number, and Nuez said it was unclear if she knew that Goodman was following her.

"We just want to question her regarding the accident," Nuez said. "We're not putting anyone at fault right now."

Goodman turned on his lights and chased the woman down Lugonia Avenue. As he approached Nevada Street, the van pulled into the intersection. Investigators are trying to determine if the driver of the van was at fault. Police did not release the identity of the van's driver.

"I don't know if he ran that stop sign or not," said CHP spokesman Jim Whitney. "Either way, he still failed to yield to an emergency vehicle."

Goodman graduated from the CHP academy in 1984 and was stationed in Oakland during the Loma Prieta earthquake. He and two other officers were awarded the Medal of Valor from then-Gov. Pete Wilson for helping to rescue a driver trapped under a collapsed portion of Interstate 880 on Oct. 17, 1989.

Goodman crawled through a space so small that he had to remove his helmet and gun belt to reach the man. For three hours, and as the freeway continued to settle because of aftershocks, Goodman and his colleagues worked to free him.

CHP Sgt. Mark Cannon, who was in Goodman's graduating class, was working in Banning when he saw the television footage of his former classmate.

"When I saw him on TV, I was proud to say I knew that guy," Cannon said. "I hope it's something that his kids can read about."

Residents of Goodman's Rancho Mirage neighborhood said they were devastated by his death. Neighbor Michael Burwen said Goodman's wife, Patricia, had once told him about the earthquake rescue.

"Sure, she was proud of him," Burwen said. "My heart goes out to her. He was a great man, well respected and well liked."

Burwen said Goodman was the "strong, silent type" who was friendly with many people in the neighborhood. He didn't talk about work or about the dangers he faced, Burwen said. He'd heard Goodman say he would retire when he reached 30 years, Burwen said.

Neighbor Michael Davis remembers being pulled over by Goodman. Even as an officer, the guy was easygoing, he said.

"He didn't realize who I was, I think," he said.

"He just talked to me and then he said, 'Is our little discussion enough, or do I have to put it in writing?' "

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