By Ari Bloomekatz and Matt Stevens
9:20 PM PST, February 17, 2014
California Highway Patrol Officers Juan Gonzalez and Brian Law went through the academy together and became good friends after 27 weeks in the same class. After they graduated in 2008, they were assigned to different offices, but by 2013 the young officers were reunited in Fresno, where they worked the graveyard shift.
They spent time together off-duty and talked to their families about each other, officials said Monday. Gonzalez, 33, had discussed marriage with his girlfriend. Law, 34, had a wife, Rebecca, and three young children.
"They were best of friends," CHP Capt. Dave Paris said.
Early Monday, Gonzalez, 33, of Fresno, and Law, 34, of Clovis, were , responding to radio calls about a collision when their Crown Victoria careened into a guardrail on California 99 south of Fresno. Both officers died instantly, CHP officials said.
"We responded, and discovered the tragedy at hand," Paris said at a news conference Monday. "California Highway Patrol members, uniform and non-uniform alike, are suffering a very severe loss today."
Although the investigation into the crash is ongoing, details began to emerge Monday afternoon that painted a complicated sequence of events.
About 6 a.m. Monday, Gonzalez and Law received radio calls indicating a collision had occurred on the northbound 99. As they approached the scene, traveling south from Fresno, they discovered the collision was actually on their side of the freeway, blocking lanes, with a pedestrian outside a vehicle, Paris said.
"The officers took evasive action to avoid striking any of the parties from the previous collision, lost control of the vehicle, struck the guardrail and severely crashed," he said. "No other cars were struck by the Highway Patrol vehicle."
After hearing of the collision, law enforcement agencies and elected officials offered their support.
State Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris called the fatalities "a deep loss for all of our law enforcement community." And in honor of Law and Gonzalez, Gov. Jerry Brown said flags at the state Capitol would be flown at half-staff.
"Anne and I extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of Officers Law and Gonzalez as they mourn the tragic loss of these dedicated public servants," Brown said in a statement. "We join all Californians in honoring these officers for their courage, commitment and service."
An accident reconstruction team was at the scene much of Monday, and all lanes on the southbound 99 were closed at East Mountain View Avenue for hours.
Flanked by CHP officials at the news conference, Paris said officers will be meeting with the victims' families to start preparations for funeral services. He said officers know that every day "they could become a sudden victim of an assault, a traffic collision. It's always in their mind. They prepare for it."
"But when it happens," he said, "we never want to accept it."
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