Investigators say Officer Chris Cortijo, 51, was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Saticoy Street and Lankershim Boulevard around 5:30 p.m. Saturday when he was struck from behind by a red Chevrolet Blazer traveling at a high rate of speed. The officer ended up pinned between two vehicles.
Qaneak Cobb, 33, was arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine. She pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, and her bail was set at $150,000.
In the wake of Cortijo's death, the District Attorney's Office says the charges against Cobb could be amended, but it won't happen on Wednesday. Authorities say Cobb has prior convictions for grand theft and drug possession.
Cortijo was a 26-year LAPD veteran who worked at the department's Valley Traffic Division. Police Chief Charlie Beck said Cortijo arrested more than 3,000 DUI suspects over the course of his career.
"The ultimate irony is that Chris spent his life keeping all of us safe from people who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said Beck.
The police chief said Cortijo was named officer of the year twice as a motorcycle officer. Before joining the LAPD, Cortijo served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"I'm deeply saddened by the death of LAPD Officer Chris Cortijo, and Amy's and my thoughts and condolences are with his family and the entire LAPD," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "His death was preventable and that adds to the great tragedy of his passing. This has been a tough time for our police department, and this incident highlights the dangers our officers face every day."
California Gov. Jerry Brown says Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen officer.
"Officer Cortijo dedicated more than half of his life to public service. He will be greatly missed by those who knew and loved him. Anne and I are deeply saddened to learn of his passing, and we join the Los Angeles Police Department and his family and friends in mourning their loss," Brown said in a statement.
This is the second death in a little over month for the LAPD. On March 7, Officer Nicholas Choung Lee, 40, died when his police cruiser was struck by a trash truck in Beverly Hills.