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Hawthorne Police Department mourns first officer killed on duty

May 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
This Memorial Day carries extra meaning for the Hawthorne Police Department, which is mourning its first officer ever killed in the line of duty.

Officer Andrew Garton was killed Thursday when his motorcycle crashed during a funeral procession near 227th Street and Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance.

Outside the Hawthorne Police Department, the American flag flew at half-staff. The department is small, with just 95 men and women on the force.

"We're still in that initial haze," said Lt. Gary Tomatani.

The lobby at the police station has been turned into a memorial for Garton, displaying items typically worn by motorcycle officers, including gloves, a helmet and boots.

"Andrew was a really good friend to a lot of people here in the organization, as well as a really good father to his children," said Hawthorne Police Sgt. Eric Lane. "His first love was being a motor officer. That was one of the things that he really cared about, and he wanted to continue to be a motor officer here as long as he possibly could be."

Garton had been a motorcycle officer for about four years, and he was on the Hawthorne Police Department for more than seven years. He is the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department's 89-year history.

"The outpouring of assistance and support for he, for his family, and for our agency by the community, by fellow law enforcement leaders, by the public at large, has been overwhelming and deeply appreciated," said Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the accident. Garton and another motorcycle officer, El Segundo Police Sgt. Rex Fowler, collided while escorting a funeral procession for Manhattan Beach Police Officer Mark Vasquez, who died of cancer.

Garton was thrown into oncoming traffic during the crash and landed on a vehicle. He was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he was declared dead.

Fowler suffered a broken leg. He is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

Some witnesses said the officers appeared to be going fast. Torrance police who were on scene said the officers were highly trained, and they go over a safety plan any time they do a funeral procession.

Garton is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 7 and 12. The Hawthorne Police Department has set up a trust fund to help Garton's family. Checks should be made out to Officer Andrew Garton Family c/o HPOA. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:

Western Federal Credit Union
Acct# 654404-006

14500 S. Aviation Blvd.
Hawthorne, CA 90250

Hawthorne Police Department
12501 S. Hawthorne Blvd.
Hawthorne, CA 90250


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