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Somber homecoming for fallen LAPD, Marine

April 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The body of a Los Angeles police officer killed in Afghanistan was returned to his family. The somber homecoming took place at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.Forty-five-year-old Sgt. Maj. Robert J. Cottle, a member of the Marine Reserves, was killed March 24 in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

He is the first LAPD officer to die in combat in Afghanistan. More than 200 members of the police force gathered to pay a solemn tribute. Long time friends knew him as R.J.

"He was very fun loving. He had a great sense of humor. He had a real boyish charm about him. When the situation called for it, he was a very capable leader," said LAPD Officer Jon Darrah.

Cottle served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and had been due to return home at the end of May. He was married, and the father of a 9-month-old girl. His widow and his parents spent a few minutes by his flag draped coffin.

Just a few days ago, Cottle's father attended a similar ceremony at the base for 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Rick Centanni of Yorba Linda who died alongside his son. A spokeswoman for the grieving Cottle family expressed their feelings.

"He took his role in the United States Marine Corps, and he took his role as an LAPD Swat officer, not just as a job. It was his heart. It was his passion," said the family's spokeswoman Laura Herzog.

As the procession left the air base, veterans and citizens lined the road, quietly honoring the soldier and 20-year-veteran police officer.

"It is just a testament to what an outstanding individual Robert was. He was a hell of a man and he was a great friend," said Darrah.