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Inglewood mayor was one of the drivers in crash that injured LAPD motorcycle officer, sources say

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James T. Butts Jr., mayor of Inglewood, was involved in a crash on Tuesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles police sergeant was seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash Tuesday morning near USC involving Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr., law enforcement sources told The Times.

Butts was attempting to make a left turn onto the USC campus, possibly against a red light, when his vehicle was struck by another car, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.

Butts’ vehicle then spun and collided with the sergeant, whose motorcycle was parked on the sidewalk. The force of the collision sent both the sergeant and his motorcycle into a nearby fountain, the law enforcement official said.

The crash is under investigation. No one has been cited in the incident at this time.

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Butts could not be reached for comment by phone, text message or email, and one of the mayor’s assistants declined to comment.

Officer Jeff Lee, an LAPD spokesman, said a sergeant from the department’s Central Traffic Division was injured when he was struck by another vehicle near the intersection of Exposition Boulevard and Figueroa Street at 8:47 a.m.

The sergeant’s motorcycle was stationary at the time. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition, according to Lee, who said the other driver stayed at the scene. No one else was injured.

Lee declined to comment on Butts’ involvement and referred additional questions to Inglewood officials. LAPD Capt. Gisselle Espinoza, a department spokeswoman, confirmed the vehicle that struck the officer was registered to the city of Inglewood.

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The accident occurred when a black sport utility vehicle made a left turn, and a gray Honda traveling west struck the SUV as the SUV was negotiating the turn. The impact caused the SUV to hit the motor officer who was stopped in front of the water fountain, Espinoza said.

Sources said the sergeant suffered several broken bones after being struck by the SUV.

David Carlisle, assistant chief of USC’s Department of Public Safety, said the crash occurred near the Pardee Way entrance to campus and tied up traffic in the area all day. No students were involved in the incident, Carlisle said, adding the LAPD will solely handle the investigation.

A USC employee who asked to remain anonymous said she was walking from the bus stop to campus when she heard the screech of brakes and tires and a bang. She looked up and saw a gray sedan and a black SUV in the street.

The SUV then slammed into a stationary police motorcycle, pinning it against the fountain.

“I see an officer in the fountain and people run up and try to help him, but they can’t move him because he’s really injured,” the employee said.

“If he hadn’t had his helmet on, he would be dead,” she added.

The USC employee said she ran to the female driver of the sedan, who was sitting on the curb with her young child, visibly shaken.

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She said that she also saw a man in a suit who she thought had been driving the SUV, and that the airbag had deployed. She believed he was the only person in the car.

“I didn’t know who he was,” she said. “I asked ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, thank you, thank you.’”

The woman driving the sedan had only minor injuries. As she sat with the USC employee, she described how she had been driving west on Exposition Boulevard when the SUV made a left turn into her car onto the USC Pardee Way driveway.

“She told me, ‘I was driving to day care. I had the green light and this car cut in front of me and I couldn’t brake fast enough,’” she said.

Times staff writers Richard Winton, Angel Jennings and Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.


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