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Officials seek cause of crash that killed 2 CHP officers

Highway and Road DisastersLaw EnforcementCrime, Law and JusticeLaws and LegislationJerry BrownKamala D. Harris

Authorities said they are still trying to sort out the details of a crash that killed California Highway Patrol officers Juan Gonzalez and Brian Law in the Central Valley.

Investigators on Monday described the sequence of events but stressed the investigation was still ongoing.

About 6 a.m. Monday, Gonzalez and Law received radio calls indicating a collision had occurred on the northbound 99 Freeway. As they approached the scene, traveling south from Fresno, they discovered the collision was actually on their side of the roadway, blocking lanes, with a pedestrian outside a vehicle, CHP Capt. Dave 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."

Both officers died instantly, CHP officials said.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Fresno Bee that officials are trying to determine why the officers crashed.

"We're not sure if the officers ... thought the crash was further down the road," Farrow said, but "as they approached the scene, they lost control of their vehicle. ... They hit the guardrail and ultimately hit the sign."

An accident reconstruction team was at the scene much of Monday, and all lanes on the southbound 99 Freeway were closed at East Mountain View Avenue for hours.

Gonzalez and Law went through the academy together and became good friends after 27 weeks in the same class, officials said. 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. Gonzalez, 33, had discussed marriage with his girlfriend. Law, 34, had a wife, Rebecca, and three young children.

"They were best of friends," Parris said. "California Highway Patrol members, uniform and non-uniform alike, are suffering a very severe loss today."

State Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris called the fatalities "a deep loss for all of our law enforcement community." 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."

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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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

matt.stevens@latimes.com

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