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LAPD officer killed in crash was 'great cop,' 'family man'

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The Los Angeles police officer killed Friday when a truck slammed into his patrol car in Beverly Hills has been identified as a 40-year-old longtime officer.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials identified the officer as Nicholas Choung Lee.

[For the record, 6:03 p.m. PST, March 7, 2014: A previous version of this post misspelled the officer's middle name as Cheong.]

At a newsconference earlier in the day, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Lee had worked in LAPD's Wilshire and Hollywood divisions, describing him as a father and “family man” who was “extremely well-respected.” Lee had worked for the department since 1998.

"#LAPD Police Officer III Nicholas Lee, Serial No. 34980," Beck tweeted. "A man of greatness and selflessness. Nick was a great cop. May he rest in peace."

Lee was also among the officers recently featured in a birthday video for a 7-year-old Rhode Island boy with leukemia.

Lee and a rookie female officer were crossing through Beverly Hills en route to an "unknown trouble call" when the crash occurred about 8 a.m. near Loma Vista Drive and Robert Lane, officials said.

Lee died at the scene. The second officer, just three months out of the academy, suffered a concussion and was expected to be released from the hospital Saturday.

The driver of the truck remains in serious condition at the hospital, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating a possible mechanical failure with the truck. The problem may have been related to the brakes, Beck said.

Smith said authorities will be looking at footage from any video cameras in the area as well as analyzing skid marks and interviewing witnesses. 

The officers were driving up a hill when they collided with the truck, which was heading down the hill carrying a dumpster and a Bobcat.

"As the officers were going up, somehow the truck stuck their car," he said, adding that they appeared to collide head-on.

CHP Officer Leland Tang said debris and the speedometer of the truck will also help determine how fast the truck was traveling down Loma Vista Drive.

At the scene, skid marks stretch from Drury Lane to Doheny Road, where the truck came to a stop and on its side. The marks cross into both southbound and northbound lanes.

Most of the damage to the police cruiser is on the driver's side. Rescuers had to remove the top of the car to extricate the officers trapped inside. 

Tang said investigators plan to dismantle the truck and cruiser to analyze the vehicles. 

Several hours after the crash, Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti accompanied the body as it was removed from his wrecked patrol car and taken to a coroner's van.

Two rows of officers lined the Beverly Hills street to salute the fallen officer. About 100 uniformed officers and civilian employees lined the street outside the Hollywood Station as the van rolled by. 

Garcetti asked that flags across the city be lowered to half-staff. By midmorning they had already been lowered outside the LAPD's downtown headquarters.

“On behalf of the city, we grieve a hero this morning, an officer who gave his life in the service of the people of Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Law EnforcementHighway and Road DisastersDisasters and AccidentsTransportation DisastersCrime, Law and JusticeLos Angeles Police Department
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