A Los Angeles police officer was killed in Los Feliz early Sunday morning after he walked into the middle of the street during a minor traffic collision investigation and was struck by a car, police said.
Officer Landon Dorris, 31, a three-year LAPD veteran, was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he died from severe head injuries. Dorris is the first on-duty LAPD officer to die in the line of duty since 2004.
"The men and women of the LAPD are deeply saddened by the loss of a fellow officer," said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends during a difficult time."
The incident occurred about 1:20 a.m. as Dorris and his partner, Marc Fujiwara, were conducting a routine traffic investigation at Riverside Drive and Hyperion Avenue. After Dorris walked out in the street and was struck, the force of the impact threw him into another car that was waiting to turn onto an Interstate 5 freeway onramp. Fujiwara was not injured, said Sgt. Lee Sands, a department spokesman.
The driver of the car that hit the officer was distraught and immediately stopped, Sands said. He was questioned at the scene by police, who determined there was no evidence that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He was not arrested or cited, but an investigation was continuing, Sands said.
At a press conference on the steps of the hospital, Capt. Morris Smith, Dorris' commanding officer in the Northeast Division, tearfully recalled how happy the young officer was when he came to the LAPD after six years as a motorcycle officer for the California Highway Patrol. He said Dorris enjoyed investigating car thefts and once tumbled down a hillside chasing a suspect.
"He was big in stature and had a calm voice," Smith said.
He recalled the young officer telling him, " 'I want to go where the real action is. I want to work for the LAPD.' "
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, back in Los Angeles from a two-week trade mission to Asia, visited the hospital to offer words of comfort to Dorris' family. Villaraigosa said the first message he received when he got off the plane was that Dorris was injured. Next came word that he had died.
"Our hearts go out to his mother, fiancee and two young boys who are not going to know how much a hero their dad was," the mayor said, declaring today a day of mourning in Los Angeles and ordering flags at all city buildings to be flown at half-staff.
City Councilman Tom LaBonge said that Dorris had been in his neighborhood recently. "It was just two weeks ago he was outside my house investigating a case of vandalism," he said. "This is a tragic accident. It is a sad day."
The last LAPD officer to be killed in the line of duty was 31-year-old Ricardo Lizarraga, who was shot and killed in 2004 while answering a domestic violence call at a South Los Angeles apartment.
Dorris is survived by his mother, his fiancee and two sons, ages 3 and 1, Sands said.