LAX Police Officer Killed as Stolen Patrol Car Drags Him
A Los Angeles International Airport police officer was killed Friday after a pedestrian commandeered his patrol car and dragged him down the road, over a curb and into a fire hydrant.
Authorities allege that 46-year-old William Sadowski, a transient known to live in Venice, crashed the cruiser and then hijacked a passing SUV, which he maneuvered over a security gate and onto airport property.
Officer Tommy Scott’s death is the first in the 59-year history of the close-knit airport Police Department, which patrols the sprawling facility. Colleagues described Scott as a friendly person who relished helping passengers navigate the airport.
“He always had a smile,” said Officer Dennis Lau, who works in the force’s dignitary protection unit. “He always had something good to say.”
The incident occurred about 11 a.m. near the corner of McConnell Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard.
Authorities are unclear exactly how the suspect and Scott, 35, came to scuffle. But authorities believe that Sadowski got control of the patrol car and that Scott grabbed the driver’s side of the cruiser to try to stop him.
“As the suspect basically drove away at a very high rate of speed, the officer attempted to disable that vehicle, attempted to gain control of it,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michel Moore said. “It appears that he was carried for some distance.”
The police cruiser crashed into a tree in the middle of a greenbelt, and its hood popped open.
Moore said that Sadowski then ran onto Lincoln Boulevard, where he attempted to flag down passing vehicles. He eventually carjacked a Ford Expedition and drove it on Lincoln toward Sepulveda Boulevard, Moore said.
The SUV suddenly veered off the road, jumped another curb and hurtled over a barbed wire fence onto airport property near the northeastern airstrip. Sadowski allegedly plowed the vehicle into another fence and over a defensive berm just a few yards away before the SUV flipped over.
Sadowski was treated at UCLA Medical Center, and will be booked on suspicion of homicide, Moore said.
The incident did not affect air operations at the airport, but several major roads were closed.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery, detectives said.
“At this point, we do not know the circumstances of the interaction between the deceased officer and the suspect,” LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said.
Police detectives released few details about Sadowski. Moore said that the suspect was arrested on grand theft charges in 2003 in San Bernardino County, though it was unclear whether he was charged.
Sadowski lived out of his car in Venice and frequented a cyber cafe where he checked his e-mail and surfed the Web, according to a cafe employee who knew him.
Sean St. John said Sadowski could be long-winded in conversations about politics and other issues but was never hostile.
“He was never aggressive in trying to prove his point if you didn’t agree,” he said. “He was pretty much a regular guy, he seemed very peaceful. He seemed like he very much believed in good energy and more of that spiritual kind of stuff.”
St. John said Sadowski would sometimes wear dark suits with white T-shirts underneath, a baseball cap and sneakers.
“He liked to talk about anything happening on the news, anything he could voice his opinion on,” St. John said.
Mayor James K. Hahn ordered city flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the fallen airport officer.
“My heart and prayers go out to this officer’s family, friends and co-workers,” Hahn said at a news conference near the scene of the slaying.
Scott, who joined the force in 2001, was well-liked in the department and could often be seen hugging colleagues as they went about their work, colleagues said.
Scott was often chosen to show visitors around the airport and explain airport policing to them. A Los Angeles native, Scott was one of 324 sworn officers who try to prevent crime at the world’s fifth-busiest airport. The LAPD responds primarily when crimes occur.
Fellow officers said that Scott often volunteered at an American Red Cross chapter.
Scott’s death comes amid a heated debate about whether the airport police should be merged with the LAPD. A measure will appear on the May 17 ballot that would give the City Council, instead of the Airport Commission, authority over the force. Bratton, Hahn and the Police Commission favor the merger, saying that it would improve airport security. But airport police and some unions oppose it, arguing that the force is specially trained to deal with airport problems.