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METROLINKL COLLISION: PORTRAITS OF LOSS / Spree Desha

Diverse lives, one tragic link

A popular teacher, a much-admired boss, an 'awesome' mother and more. . . . In coming days, The Times will continue to profile the victims of the crash.

September 14, 2008|Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

L.A. cop lived in Simi Valley

Amid the ranks of the city's young, ambitious police officers, Spree Desha stood out. It was not just that she was tall and striking, although she was both of those. She was a solid, serious cop who had begun to climb through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department.

In a solemn moment at the scene of the Metrolink crash, scores of officers stood in two columns along the edge of the wreckage, a makeshift honor guard waiting to salute their fallen colleague. As her body was removed on a board, covered with an American flag, her colleagues gently carried her to an ambulance with military precision and respect. Desha's badge, one officer said, was bent almost in half by the force of the crash.

"She was uncommonly thoughtful, very intelligent," said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, who runs the Office of Operations. He first saw Desha in action last week on her new job, briefing LAPD officials on the roll-out of a computerized tracking system to streamline the complex deployment of the department's nearly 10,000 officers.

But, in her heart, Desha, 35, loved being a street cop. A seven-year veteran, she maneuvered to remain in patrol and narcotics assignments. More than anything, she thrived as a field training officer, responsible for breaking in officers fresh out of the academy.

Desha had earned 34 formal commendations in her personnel record. In performance evaluations, one supervisor noted that Desha was "a dedicated and energetic officer who goes out and enjoys getting the job done."

-- Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

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