USC student killed in crash with campus police cruiser; LAPD investigating

Los Angeles police are investigating what led to a traffic crash in which a USC student was killed last week when a university police cruiser smashed into her vehicle near a campus entrance, authorities said Friday.

USC identified the victim as Kelsey Dresser, a first-year graduate student.

The Dec. 3 collision occurred when she was driving westbound along Jefferson Boulevard and made a left turn at Royal Street, near an entrance gate to the University Park campus, said LAPD Lt. Charles Springer.

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The USC Department of Public Safety's patrol car was traveling eastbound on Jefferson Boulevard when it struck Dresser's vehicle, according to police. Police say the collision occurred about 6:30 a.m.

Dresser, who graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 with a degree in psychology, suffered brain damage and was taken to a hospital with severe injuries, said LAPD Officer Aareon Jefferson, a department spokesman. The 23-year-old died the following day.

There’s no indication that either driver was under the influence at the time of the collision. Jefferson said he did not know what speed either vehicle was traveling during the moments leading up to the crash.

The investigation has so far determined that the the major cause of the crash was Dresser's left turn, Jefferson said.

A spokesman for USC’s Department of Public Safety, Deputy Chief David Carlisle, said in an email that the officer was alone in the patrol car and remains off-duty while recuperating from the collision. The cruiser “sustained major damage,” Carlisle added.

He declined to say whether the officer suffered injuries or to release his name, citing the officer's privacy. He referred further questions about the collision to the LAPD. 

In a statement, the head of USC’s campus police, Chief John Thomas, called the collision “an unprecedented and heartbreaking event for our department.” Thomas offered condolences to Dresser’s family and friends as well as to the university community.

Dresser began her graduate studies in marriage and family therapy this summer at USC’s Rossier School of Education, said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the university’s education school. During undergraduate studies at UC Santa Barbara, Dresser was a research assistant at an autism center and worked with a nonprofit group that promotes awareness about mental health issues among students. 

“Kelsey had hoped to pursue counseling in a public community mental health clinic before achieving her long-term goal of establishing a private practice,” Symms Gallagher said in a statement. 

For more news, follow @matthjourno on Twitter.

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