Daniel Ackerman had just completed a grueling physical fitness test required for all Buena Park Police SWAT officers when he became disoriented and stared off into space.
An on-site doctor noticed something was wrong and by 8:15 a.m. on Friday, Ackerman was in a squad car heading toward the hospital. The next morning, the 31-year-old was dead.
The Irvine resident had no preexisting medical condition and appeared to be in his prime, according to his sister.
“He’s the healthiest person in the family,” said Christie Thompson, 19. “He works out every day, he eats healthy. He had a check-up not long ago and all his medical tests came back fine. It’s shocking and heartbreaking.”
Ackerman, who grew up in Buena Park and attended Kennedy High School in La Palma, had long dreamed of becoming a police officer and joined the police Explorers at age 14. He became a reserve officer in April 2001 and was hired full-time four years later, said Buena Park Cpl. Andy Luong.
Recently selected for SWAT, Ackerman seemed fine at the start of the required semiannual strength and endurance test at Fullerton’s water tower facility. Ackerman completed the course, which includes running and jumping over walls and fences, within the required time, but then seemed to zone out, Luong said.
When family members first arrived at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Ackerman was conscious and responsive. He greeted his daughter Avery, who had turned 2 years old that day. The tube down his throat prevented him from talking, but he waved as if everything was all right.
“You could ask him questions and he’d nod and could squeeze your hand to say yes or no,” Thompson said. “He started showing improvement and then he went downhill. They found internal bleeding and his veins started collapsing. It just happened so fast.”
Ackerman passed away Saturday about 3:40 a.m. In addition to his sister and daughter, he is survived by his mother, Cindy, of Cypress and his girlfriend, Sharitie Harper of Midway City. The family was awaiting results of the autopsy and had yet to set a funeral date.
Thompson said she takes comfort in the fact that her brother had achieved much of what he set out to do. “He wanted to become a part of SWAT, so we can honestly say he died content,” she said. “I just wish he would have gotten more of a chance to experience his goal.”