Sheriff’s sergeant whose son was killed by drunk driver offers forgiveness, while pleading for more highway safety measures

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ottawa Cureton-Dunkentell, right, pictured with her husband, Ronald Dunkentell, said she forgives the suspected drunk driver who ended her son’s life.
(Anh Do / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant whose son was recently killed by a drunk driver who also died in the crash spoke of forgiveness Saturday, saying both families were suffering.

“There’s not enough words to say to bring my son back,” said Ottawa Cureton-Dunkentell, who raised her only child as a single mother. “The main thing is to move forward and forgive.”

Her son, Anthony Thompson, 24, who also worked for the sheriff’s department, was killed last Sunday in a wrong-way crash on the 605 Freeway in Irwindale.


The crash occurred after midnight when the female driver of a 2002 Honda Odyssey entered the southbound Ramona Boulevard offramp and drove north, according to the California Highway Patrol. She collided head-on with Thompson, who was behind the wheel of a 2013 Dodge Challenger.

The female driver, 35, also died at the scene, CHP officials said. A preliminary investigation found that drugs or alcohol may have been a factor in the collision.

Thompson had worked as a custody assistant at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, hoping to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a sheriff’s deputy. When her son graduated from high school, Cureton-Dunkentell recalled offering him three choices: enlist in the military, go to college or join the force.

“He said to me: ‘Well, Mom, the sheriff’s department hasn’t treated you too badly. I think I should try it,’ ” she said. “He came through with flying colors. He loved — loved his job. Even the inmates are mourning him. He ministered to some of them. He told them: ‘This is not the end of the world — keep pushing. We all make mistakes.’ ”

On Saturday afternoon, Cureton-Dunkentell stood among friends and family as she called on local, state and federal officials to implement new safety measure to protect against wrong-way drivers entering a freeway, such as installing bright lights or a device that might flatten tires.

Mothers “should not be burying their children because of someone’s poor decision,” she said as she plans for the funeral. “I have to tell myself that God wanted him. He needs him more than I do.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Rod Armalin described Thompson as a joy to work with, saying he came in “every day trying to find the best way to treat everyone he came into contact with.”

His death “hit home,” he added. “It hit hard.”

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