LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 51-year-old Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer who was struck by an SUV driven by an allegedly impaired driver in Sun Valley died today.
Officer Chris Cortijo, a 26-year veteran and former Marine, was struck around 5:30 p.m. Saturday while waiting at a red light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street.
“Chris Cortijo lived a life of service,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “He was a Marine. He was a Los Angeles police officer. He was a motor cop. He was a father. He was a life partner, and he was a good friend.
“... He was very, very well respected and well liked by the men and women of the LAPD,” the chief said.
Beck noted that Cortijo, who worked at the Valley Traffic Division, had twice been named officer of the year, having arrested more than 3,000 DUI suspects during his career. Beck called it the “ultimate tragedy” that the officer died because someone “callously and wantonly” drove under the influence of drugs.
A Pacoima woman accused of striking the officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of driving under the influence of a drug and possession of cocaine.
Qaneak Shaney Cobb, 33, is accused of slamming her Chevrolet Blazer into the veteran officer as he was stopped at the intersection. The impact left the officer trapped between the Blazer and a Honda Accord that was in front of him.
Cobb is likely to face additional charges following the officer's death.
Cortijo's body was transported late this afternoon in a coroner's van from ProvidenceHolyCrossMedicalCenter to the coroner's office, escorted by a large contingent of LAPD motorcycle officers.
Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered the city's flags to be flown at half-staff in memory of Cortijo. He said the officer's death “reminds all of us of the sacrifice that our bravest heroes make.”
“Chris Cortijo was a good man, grew up here in Southern California,” the mayor said. “Served as a Marine, served his country, then came back and served his city.”
A blood drive was held in the officer's honor on Monday at ProvidenceHolyCrossMedicalCenter, where the officer was being treated. Hospital officials said 100 pints of blood were collected. Another drive was held Tuesday at the LAPD's Mission Station, and more than 100 more pints were collected.
Cortijo is the second LAPD officer to die in the past five weeks. On March 7, Los Angeles police Officer Nicholas Choung Lee, 40, was killed when an out-of-control truck on steep Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills struck his patrol car head-on.
Another officer was injured Monday night when a gunman opened fire in the lobby of the LAPD's West Traffic Division. A female officer was injured March 24 when she responded to a domestic violence call in the Hollywood Hills and gunfire erupted.
Condolences poured in via Twitter after news of Cortijo's death.
LAPD Capt. Maureen Ryan tweeted, “Thank you for all your hard work and dedication you will be greatly missed. RIP brother. Our thoughts & prayers remain with your family.”
The LAPD's Valley Traffic Division, where the officer worked, announced Cortijo's death, saying, “It is with great sadness and a heavy heart we regret to announce the passing of our LAPD Brother in Blue. RIP We will miss you!”
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, also offered condolences.
“Officer Cortijo paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to his community,” Izen said. “We ask that the community please keep Officer Cortijo and his family in their prayers, and remember the sacrifices paid by law enforcement officers to keep our communities safe.”