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CHP officer killed during high-speed pursuit in Redlands

Officer Tom Coleman died instantly when his motorcycle struck a big-rig. The vehicle he was pursuing left the scene and struck another car before the driver and three passengers were apprehended.

June 12, 2010|By Richard Winton and Ching-Ching Ni, Los Angeles Times

A California Highway Patrol officer was killed Friday during a high-speed pursuit in Redlands when his motorcycle slammed into a big-rig truck.

The accident occurred during a wild chase on surface streets near the 10 Freeway that reached speeds of 100 mph.

Tom Coleman, a seven-year CHP veteran, died instantly in the morning collision, which occurred two days after another highway patrol motorcycle officer was seriously hurt during a traffic stop on the 405 Freeway on L.A.'s Westside. That officer remains in critical condition Friday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"It's heartbreaking," said CHP Officer Mario Lopez. "A few days ago, we had another officer go down in the L.A. area."

As word spread about Coleman's death, CHP officers and others in law enforcement offered tributes. "He gave his life for the people of California while performing his duties and will be remembered by all," CHP Officer Daniel Hesser said.

The pursuit began about 6:30 a.m., when Coleman tried to pull over a speeding silver Ford Focus on Mountain View Avenue near the 10 Freeway and the driver failed to stop, CHP officials said.

The chase moved off the street. Then, at San Bernardino Avenue and Alabama Street, Coleman's motorcycle rammed into the side of a big rig. The impact sent threw him onto the pavement. His motorcycle broke into pieces and burst into flames.

A man from a nearby school attempted to resuscitate Coleman, but he began crying when he realized his efforts were not going to work, said John Acosta, a Fontana delivery truck driver. Acosta raced to the wreck and helped extinguish the fire.

The driver of the Ford left the scene and struck another vehicle near the Citrus Plaza shopping center, authorities said. The driver and three passengers attempted to escape on foot but were apprehended by CHP officers. They were booked into the Redlands city jail.

Back at the crash scene, a steady stream of CHP officers arrived to pay their last respects to their fallen colleague. Some fought back tears and hugged each other.

The body of Coleman, a married father of two children, was shrouded under an American flag.

Crime scene investigators gathered evidence from the scene. Coleman's helmet lay a dozen feet from the wrecked, smoking motorcycle.

In a solemn ceremony, officers gathered around the fallen officer's body for a moment of silence, then saluted as his body was placed into a coroner's van.

The CHP was rocked by another serious accident Wednesday when an officer standing on the shoulder of the 405 Freeway near the 110 Freeway was struck by a motorist during a traffic stop.

Officer Phillip Ortiz, 52, was listed in critical condition, though details of his injuries were not released.

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