A Culver City police officer and a 21-year-old Van Nuys man were killed Wednesday in a head-on collision that closed several lanes of the 10 Freeway for hours during the morning commute.
Sgt. Curtis Massey, 41, was driving east on his way to work when he was struck about 5 a.m. just west of National Boulevard by a silver Toyota Camry traveling the wrong way, said Officer Miguel Luevano of the California Highway Patrol. Massey's unmarked police car, a four-door Dodge Charger, was engulfed in flames.
No one else was hurt, and the CHP is investigating. Pete Demetriou, a radio reporter for KFWB-AM (980), was driving to work about 4:55 a.m. on the eastbound 10 when he saw a car, driven by the Van Nuys man, coming toward him.
"You're used to seeing headlights coming at you, but you assume they're on the other side," he said. "At about 200 yards I realized he was coming in my lane." Demetriou said he called police after the car passed him traveling about 65 mph. All eastbound lanes and two westbound lanes of the 10 were closed at the 405 Freeway until about 1 p.m.
Massey, who is survived by a wife and three young children, was a 17-year veteran of the Police Department and was most recently assigned to the juvenile detective bureau.
Police Chief Don Pedersen told reporters that Massey dedicated much of his free time to working with at-risk teens and every year volunteered for the Santa sleigh, a holiday event in which officers escort Santa Claus around the city and distribute presents to children.
"He was a friend and trusted colleague who could always be counted on to be the first one to volunteer for an assignment," Pedersen said of Massey, who was a Medal of Valor recipient. "The community today has lost a dedicated police sergeant."
Megan Gallagher, 28, a former community service officer who worked with the department for five years, was shocked when she heard the news about Massey, a colleague who had served as her mentor.
"He was someone I looked up to and someone I trusted at the station -- being one of the few females there it's kind of hard to talk to everybody," she said. "When I started there, we have to get our uniforms and he offered up his jacket so I didn't have to spend the money. He made my first days there comfortable. He was an automatic friend from Day One."
On behalf of Massey's family, the department has set up the Sgt. Curtis Massey Memorial Fund. Donations can be sent to Culver City Employees Federal Credit Union, 9770 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232.