In a news conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck identified the deceased officer as Roberto Sanchez, 32, of Santa Ana. Sanchez was driving the police cruiser. He was taken to Harbor UCLA Medical Center in critical condition following the crash.
Sanchez served with the Harbor Division for about six years. He is survived by his wife.
The officer riding in the passenger seat of the cruiser was identified as Richard Medina. Beck said he suffered serious injuries, including a broken jaw. Beck said Medina was not only Sanchez's partner, but his best friend.
"We shall never forget Roberto, who gave his life in the name of serving others. Together we will get through this as an LAPD family," said Beck. "Stay strong and continue looking after one another to keep each other safe."
The accident happened at 3:45 a.m. near Anaheim Street and President Avenue. Police said the officers were following a speeding driver. As the speeding driver and officers made a U-turn, the officers' were T-boned by a Chevrolet Tahoe. Police said the SUV may have been travelling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Anaheim Street.
The officers were on a routine patrol at the time of the crash. The damage was so severe that firefighters had to extricate the officers from the wreckage. The center console where the police radio is located was so badly damaged that the officer in the passenger seat had to use his cellphone to call for help.
"Everybody was definitely shouting, they had the jaws of life out, they were trying their hardest to rescue the police officers," said witness Darin Sizer.
The occupants of the SUV fled the scene on foot. Police later located and detained two "persons of interest" about a mile from the scene.
"We were able to locate him nearby and take him into custody," said LAPD Lt. John Pasquariello. "He is currently at a local hospital as well. There is a possibility that drugs or alcohol were a factor, but we haven't determined that as of yet."
The search for the speeding vehicle continues. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
"There's only two individuals who know exactly what the officers were doing at that time, one of them is severely injured and one is deceased," said Beck.
It was an emotional scene outside the Harbor UCLA Medical Center Saturday afternoon as fellow officers lined the entrance as Sanchez's flag-draped body was removed. His devastated wife of just three months, along with family and friends, followed behind. He was then brought by the LAPD Harbor Division Station where he worked one last time. Dozens of fellow LAPD officers and Los Angeles firefighters lined the road to pay their respects.
This is the third deadly accident involving the LAPD in recent weeks. Officer Nick Lee was killed on-duty when a truck slammed into his cruiser in Beverly Hills. A few weeks later, Officer Chris Cortijo was killed on-duty when he was rear-ended by an alleged drunk driver as he sat on his motorcycle at a stop light in Sun Valley.
Beck said LAPD Officer George Nagata also died Friday night of a heart condition. He was a 35-year veteran of the force.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti extended his sympathy to the Los Angeles Police Department Saturday.
"Officer Sanchez died a hero, but that does not lessen the blow to his family and fellow officers. Amy's and my thoughts are with his family and his brothers and sisters in blue today. We are also hoping for the recovery of the officer he was riding with last night, who was also his best friend. This third loss of an officer in the line of duty in just two months is a stark and tragic reminder of the dangers our first responders face every day. It is with a heavy heart that I am again ordering the city's flags to half staff," Garcetti said in a statement.