Bay Area Mourns Loss of CHP Officer Killed When Allegedly Drunken Driver Slams Into Patrol Vehicle

The Christmas Eve death of a California Highway Patrol officer in a suspected DUI rear-end crash sent shock waves throughout the Bay Area.

Outside the department's Hayward office, where Andrew Camilleri worked, a memorial is growing as people drop off flowers and pay their respects. Officials said they have received an outpouring of support from the community after the loss of one of their own

Details about a memorial fund for Camilleri have been posted on the CHP Golden Gate Division Facebook page. 

Camilleri's body was escorted late Tuesday afternoon during a procession that started from the Alameda County Coroner's Office in Oakland to Fry Memorial Chapel in Tracy. Camilleri lived in Tracy with his family.

Police, firefighters and paramedics were seen saluting the fallen officer from overpasses along Interstate 580 while the procession made its way to Tracy from the East Bay.

Earlier in the day, mourners dropped by the CHP station in Hayward to leave flowers. Most who visited had never met the rookie officer.

"I heard over the news that he had passed right before midnight," mourner Aruna Singh said. "It really touched me. So my mom and I came to pay our respects."

Procession for Fallen CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri

Camilleri and his partner, Officer Jonathan Velasquez were parked on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 880 in Hayward, with their eyes peeled for impaired drivers. Around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, a man, who officials believe was speeding under the influence of alcohol and drugs, rammed into the back of their CHP SUV. 

Camilleri was killed and Velasquez suffered non-life threatening injuries. 

The 33-year-old is survived by his parents, siblings, a wife, a 12-year-old daughter, and two sons, ages 6 and 2, according to Asst. Chief Ernest Sanchez.

"This is not the way we wanted to celebrate Christmas Day,” Sanchez said. “It’s definitely not the way we wanted the community to think of the 2017 Christmas holiday, but today’s not a holiday for the highway patrol. Today is the tragic loss of one of our own.”

The collision occurred near State Route 92 and the Winton Avenue on-ramp. A red Cadillac, which was being driven by a 22-year-old Hayward man at "a very high rate of speed," careened into the shoulder of the road, ramming into the right side of the CHP vehicle, Sanchez said.

"The impact was so severe that it turned a utility vehicle into a very small compact vehicle," Sanchez said.

Firefighters salute fallen CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri during a procession Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017. The officer was killed when a suspected drunk driver crashed into his stopped patrol vehicle on Interstate 880 in Hayward.

Camilleri and Velasquez, who was seated in the driver's seat, were participating in the department's Maximum Enforcement Patrol to ensure the safety of motorists during the holiday season. 

Sanchez said he believes that the suspect was "coming home from a party and had obviously had too much to drink and maybe too much to smoke."

The man, who "chose to be irresponsible" and is in "very serious condition," will face a slew of felony charges upon his release from the hospital, Sanchez said.

"This needs to stop," he said. "Too many tragedies have happened, and today, I’m not only disappointed but also angered" about having to deliver such heartbreaking news to an unsuspecting family. 

Camilleri's children “were expecting (their) father to come home and help open Christmas presents,” Sanchez said. Instead, he was pronounced dead at St. Rose Hospital.

Capt. Chris Childs, from the CHP's Napa office, is in Hayward Tuesday to free up local officers so they can start arranging the funeral, which is expected within the next week. He said also that Camilleri's name will be included on a fountain behind the CHP academy — called the Wall of Honor — alongside the names of other fallen officers.

A California Highway Patrol officer was killed in the line of duty on southbound Interstate 880 in Hayward on Christmas Eve after being rear-ended by a suspected drunk driver returning from a party, officials say. Thom Jensen reports.

Allison Salinas witnessed the fatal crash, saying the suspect vehicle passed her going more than 100 mph and swerving across the roadway.

"I just remember seeing brake lights and like smoke, and I guess that's when he rear ended the CHP vehicle," she said. "And then I just saw the Cadillac roll. It was like a movie, and then my husband is yelling, 'He hit a CHP.'"

Camilleri had no idea "what hit him," Salinas said, recalling telling her husband that the officer was "gone."

Salinas said it was hard to celebrate Chistmas so soon after seeing such a horrific crash.

"We don't really want to be festive," she said. "How can we, when this poor family ... You know they have to grieve now, because of somebody's stupidity."

Capt. Tim Pearson, commander of the CHP office in Hayward, fondly recalled Camilleri, who joined the department in August 2016. 

“Being a CHP officer is a calling," Pearson said. "Andrew was drawn to this profession due to his courage, integrity and his desire to serve. Andrew was a great man who loved his job and loved his family."

A California Highway Patrol officer was killed in the line of duty on southbound Interstate 880 in Hayward on Christmas Eve after being rear-ended by a suspected drunk driver. Anser Hassan reports.

Footage from the scene shows debris littering the roadway, while both cars were severely mangled. 

The grisly crash forced an hours-long closure of all southbound lanes of I-880 near Winton Avenue across from Southland Mall. Traffic was congested because all vehicles were being diverted to A Street from midnight to just before 10 a.m. Some drivers even used the emergency lane to exit the freeway. 

Rep. Eric Swalwell, Cal Fire, and other local law enforcement agencies took to social media to express their condolences.

Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement, which said in part: “Anne and I are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Officer Camilleri, who died yesterday while working to keep our communities safe," Brown said."We join his family, friends and the entire California Highway Patrol in mourning his death and in honoring his sacrifice.”

Flags at the state Capitol will be flown at half-staff, Brown said.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen Credit Union is setting up a fund to benefit the Callimeri family. A memorial bell ringing ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the CHP Academy, located at 3500 Reed Avenue in Sacramento.

NBC Bay Area's Kristofer Noceda, Roz Plater, Anser Hassan and Thom Jensen contributed to this report.

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