By Kristi Eaton
OKLAHOMA CITY — Two law enforcement officers who were killed when their cars collided during a police pursuit in western Oklahoma have been identified by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
The patrol said Burns Flat police officer Kristian Willhight, 36, of Foss, died in Thursday's collision along with Washita County Undersheriff Brian Beck, 39, of Canute. The patrol said neither officer was wearing a seat belt.
Authorities said Beck was attempting to serve a suspect with a felony warrant about 9:40 a.m. in Sentinel when the suspect fled in a vehicle. The suspect, identified as Quentin Lee Johnson, was killed in a crash about 30 minutes later near Dill City, investigators said. Beck and Willhight collided a short time later.
The crash remains under investigation, and authorities have not yet said what led to the collision.
Both accidents happened in an area about 110 miles west of Oklahoma City. It's not clear how the Burns Flat officer became involved in the pursuit, officials said.
Washita County, where Dill City and Burns Flat are both located, has about 11,600 residents. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Orr said both the sheriff's office and police department are small and their officers are well-known in their communities.
"It's very tragic for not only the police department but the community itself," Orr said. "You just lost two officers that keep you safe at night. It hits home, not only for these agencies but for law enforcement in general for the state of Oklahoma and nationwide."
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a database of slain law enforcement officers, before Thursday's deaths 16 officers in Oklahoma previously died in vehicle pursuits.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press