06/27/2003

Car Crash Kills LAPD Detective

Officer Down: Abe Barron - [Loma Linda, California]

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles police homicide detective Abe Barron was killed and his partner was critically injured Wednesday when a pickup truck trying to pass a big rig on a San Bernardino County highway hit them head on, police said.

The accident occurred at 7:30 p.m. on California 138 -- Pearblossom Highway -- two miles west of Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass as the on-duty officers rode in their unmarked cruiser.

The critically injured officer, 25-year veteran Andy Teague, was airlifted to Loma Linda Medical Center.

Both officers worked out of the LAPD's Northeast Division and specialized in revisiting unsolved homicide cases. A number of officers from that division, in addition to Chief William J. Bratton and Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, were en route to the medical center late Wednesday night.

"It's a major blow to the organization," McDonnell said. He described the officers as "two hard-working, solid homicide detectives."

Cmdr. Jim Tatreau said the officer who was killed was "a good cop ... well liked by his peers."

The highway has one lane in each direction. LAPD Officer Jason Lee said the accident occurred when a pickup truck swerved into the oncoming lane to get around a big rig, according to CHP Officer Ron Seldon.. The pickup driver, who was alone, was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino with major injuries.

Witness Tom Rodriguez said he ran to the crash site and turned off the ignition of the police car. He said to the passenger, "Everything's going to be all right, buddy."

Pearblossom Highway, where the accident occurred, is considered one of California's most dangerous roadways. It has no center divider, and signs by the road warn drivers that they are on "Deathtrap Highway" or "Blood Alley."

A few years ago, a Times computer analysis of accident data showed that 56 people died and 875 had been injured on the 138 in the five previous years.

In 2002, Gov. Gray Davis proposed spending $10 million to widen the deadliest parts of the highway from one lane in each direction to two, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed spending $4 million on top of $57 million it has already allocated toward improving the road. Construction is expected to begin by next summer.

A few years ago, Teague was a lead investigator in a string of 12 killings allegedly committed or ordered by gang leader Timothy Joseph McGhee. Until his capture early this year, McGhee was considered one of the nation's most wanted fugitives. McGhee, who headed the so-called Toonerville gang, allegedly terrorized a largely middle-class area north of Los Feliz Boulevard, between San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River.

In 1997, Teague made headlines when and another LAPD officer accused then-Chief Willie L. Williams of slander. Teague claimed that Williams accused him of falsifying physical evidence and perjuring himself in a murder case.

After a hearing, an LAPD disciplinary panel cleared the partners of the allegations.

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