Deputy killed in crash

first_img“Despite the smell of natural gas as well as the sparking of the downed power wires, the deputies peered into the debris looking for victims,” Baca recounted. “A child’s cry for help led Deputy Gama and his partner into the backyard of a semicollapsed house with a railroad car sitting on its roof.” Baca spoke to Gama’s wife, Sandra, who said she had recently spoken to her husband about how he would want to be remembered if he died suddenly. “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything,” Gama had told his wife, according to Baca. Leon Goldstein, 79, who lives across the street from where the crash occurred, said he was in his backyard when he heard the impact. “Bang!” said Goldstein, describing what he heard. “No skid marks, no nothing, just a crash.” The damage to the deputy’s van was extensive, said Goldstein, a 32-year neighborhood resident, who added that speeding on the residential street has gotten worse through the years. “That’s too bad that guy had to die like that for no reason,” he said. Gama is the eighth Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty in the past five years, according to the California Police Officers’ Memorial Web site. Gama grew up in Santa Monica, and attended Santa Monica College before he joined the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s an inexplicable thing to lose a deputy sheriff or a police officer in the line of duty,” Baca said. “There are not enough words to offer any form of explanation to a bereaved widow.” Gama often joked with his fellow deputies, and was always ready with a good comeback, said Sgt. Rod Johnson, his supervisor at the Major Crimes Bureau. “He’s always in a good mood, witty and quick,” he said. Gama’s mischief carried into the field, where he was tenacious and had a knack for encouraging people to talk. Recalling an investigation into a shipment of stolen shoes, Johnson said Gama was so persuasive chatting up his “mark” that he was led to another group dealing in stolen shoes, then another. “He was incredibly intelligent when it came to the kinds of things we investigate,” he said. “People can relate to him.” When Johnson got word of the crash involving Gama, he thought it was only a minor collision. “Then they told me he stopped breathing,” he said. “It was total disbelief. It can’t be happening. … I can’t explain the shock. It’s not sunk in yet. When you come to work in the morning, you think it’s just another day at work. All that changed with a phone call.” eugene.tong@dailynews.com (818) 546-3304160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Five other deputies and a sergeant – part of the surveillance team investigating a major-crimes case involving stolen cellular phones – were nearby, but not in the vehicle. Police arrested Luis Yanez, 18, of San Fernando on felony manslaughter charges. His bail was set at $50,000. Yanez was pulled from his green Honda Element after the crash, with no serious injuries. LAPD Detective Bill Bustos said Yanez, a high school student, appeared intoxicated after the crash and was given a field sobriety test. But Bustos said it was unclear whether Yanez was drunk or on drugs, or just appeared that way. “There was evidence that led us to believe that there was (signs of intoxication) and that’s why we initially did a field sobriety test,” Bustos said. Baca described Gama, a married father of four from Chino, as a “true leader.” Gama earned his Medal of Valor when he and other deputies rescued a family buried in debris from a runaway train in the city of Commerce in 2003. NORTH HOLLYWOOD – A decorated Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and father of four was killed Tuesday when a San Fernando teen, who officials say might have been drunk or on drugs, plowed his car into the deputy’s parked surveillance van. Deputy Raul Gama, a 20-year veteran and Medal of Valor recipient, was working undercover monitoring a suspect at 8:55 a.m. near Oxnard Street and Rhodes Avenue when the high-impact crash occurred, said Sheriff Lee Baca at an afternoon news conference. “The tragedy of the death of Deputy Gama is that he graduated from the sheriff’s academy on May 1, 1987, and today, on May 1, 2007, is the end of his watch,” said a visibly shaken Baca. Gama, 43, was rushed to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he died. He was the sole occupant of the charcoal-color sheriff’s van when it was struck. last_img

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