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LAPD officer remembered for devotion to family, job

Det. George Selleh, 52, was killed in an off-duty motorcycle accident on the 101 Freeway.

August 07, 2007|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Police Department detective killed in an off-duty traffic accident was remembered Monday at a memorial service that drew nearly a thousand people, including hundreds of law enforcement officers, as a loving father who was dedicated to his job.

Det. George "Mike" Selleh, 52, of Simi Valley was killed July 29 when his personal motorcycle was struck by a car during a dramatic, chain-reaction accident on the 101 Freeway in Hollywood.

Selleh had been trying to avoid a car that had stopped in traffic after striking the center divider, investigators said. The 3:20 a.m. accident triggered a 13-vehicle pile-up and closed the freeway for nearly half a day.

No one else was seriously injured. But another LAPD officer, David Rodriguez, 33, died in an unrelated traffic accident later that day after his car skidded off the 101 Freeway near the Sepulveda Boulevard exit and plunged down an embankment.

On Monday, mourners gathered at the Church of the Rocky Peak in Chatsworth to pay tribute to Selleh. His wife of almost 23 years, Barbara; his son, Scott, 20; and his daughter, Jessica, 18, were present, along with several members of his extended family.

During the service, Police Chief William J. Bratton described the 29-year veteran as an exemplary officer. "It's quite obvious he loved his job and was very proud of it," he said. "He loved every minute of being a cop."

Before the presentation of a slide show depicting his life, Selleh's daughter spoke tearfully about how much her father would be missed. "He was so full of life, and he was not done living it," she said. "He was the most amazing, warm and caring person I ever knew."

In addition to his job with the LAPD, Selleh worked as a movie set security guard, a job he was driving to when the accident occurred. He also served as an assistant scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America and had a passion for scuba diving.

At heart, he was a volunteer, many of the speakers said. In 1993, Selleh donated blood for a fellow officer's emergency heart surgery that was credited in part with saving the man's life.

Many speakers also emphasized Selleh's close friendship with fellow LAPD Det. Anthony R. Stavropoulos. The pair were often referred to as the "Twin Towers." When Stavropoulos died of cancer in 2002, Selleh was instrumental in comforting and aiding the family, said Stavropoulos' brother, George. Selleh even organized a golf tournament in memory of his best friend.

Selleh also was a devoted family man, mourners said.

Fellow officers said that Selleh's desk was crowded with photos of his family, and that he often talked about his son's love of cars and his daughter's exploits on the basketball court.

"He made our house a home, he was our rock and our protector, and he loved us with all his heart," his daughter said.

An obsession with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series, a tendency to have deep conversations with his pet dogs, gag gifts like a black leather doggy diaper and a repertoire of songs he concocted about life all made Selleh a humorous, lovable figure, she said.

But Selleh also was inspiring to his colleagues, said Kirby Carranza, an LAPD detective and chaplain, as well as a friend for 12 years.

In 2004, when Carranza was suffering chest pains and dizziness, Selleh offered a piggy-back ride down to the car to drive him to the hospital and, once there, performed an unorthodox dance to cheer him up, Carranza said. Selleh was a model of professionalism, said Carranza, who called his friend a "warrior of righteousness."

Selleh, a narcotics investigator, was committed to the fight against drugs, and under his leadership his team made several significant arrests, once confiscating 100 kilograms of cocaine, LAPD Lt. Tom Zack said.

Another speaker said Selleh has been thanked by people he arrested for his civil treatment of them.

"He operated with compassion," Zack said. "He endeavored to treat people, all people, legally and respectfully."

Selleh's daughter said the day she found out that he had died was the "hardest day of my life," adding that she sometimes still expects to see her father walk through the door.

"Something like this was never supposed to happen," she said. "We had the perfect family and now our world is completely shattered."

After the memorial service, a bagpipe player heralded a 21-gun salute over Simi Valley. Mourners lined the fence around the driveway and watched an LAPD helicopter fly overhead in honor of Selleh before they headed to a reception.

"He was a good cop, a great partner, a loyal friend and a fantastic supervisor," said LAPD Det. Steve Miller, a friend for more than 20 years. "He was the nucleus of the department."

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Selleh is survived by two sisters.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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