‘It's a Tragedy': CHP Officer Killed in Christmas Eve Crash to Be Honored With Memorial in Stockton

Andrew Camilleri, a California Highway Patrol officer who died in the line of duty on Christmas Eve, will be honored at a memorial service in Stockton on Saturday.

The 33-year-old Tracy man and his partner, Officer Jonathan Velasquez, were parked on the right shoulder of southbound Interstate 880 in Hayward when a 22-year-old man, who was allegedly speeding until the influence of alcohol and drugs, slammed into the back of their patrol vehicle. 

Velasquez sustained non-life threatening injuries, but Camilleri, a married father-of-three, was killed

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.

A large turnout is expected for Saturday's memorial service.

"We go out there every day knowing potentially that we won't come home, but at the same time we all want to go home," CHP Officer John Fransen said. "It affects us all the way around."

A somber bell-ringing ceremony in Sacramento Wednesday honored the life and service of Camilleri, who graduated from the CHP Academy in March 2017. 

Standing in front of countless CHP officers, grieving family members and friends, CHP's Acting Commissioner Warren Stanley paid tribute to the fallen officer.

"We are forever grateful for his loyal and dedicated service and show gratitude to his family for their sacrifice," Stanley said. "Andrew Camilleri epitomizes what a CHP officer should always be: a dedicated and selfless public servant. He will not be forgotten."

At full attention outside the CHP Academy on Reed Avenue in West Sacramento, CHP officers paid their respects while two of their colleagues rang a bell one time to mark Camilleri's end of watch. 

"It's a tragedy for Officer Camilleri's family," Stanley said. "It's a tragedy for the CHP. It's a tragedy for the state of California. We shouldn't be here because this did not have to happen."

Despite the grief, Capt. Tim Pearson with CHP Hayward noted that Camilleri's family has demonstrated admirable fortitude in the face of utter despair. 

"Andrew has an amazing family," Pearson said. "His wife has provided a tremendous amount of strength for us when it should really be the other way." 

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

CHP leaders say the department has received an outpouring of support from the community after the loss of one of their own

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen Credit Union has set up a fund to benefit the Callimeri family, according to the CHP Golden Gate division's Facebook page.

Sunday's grisly collision occurred near State Route 92 and the Winton Avenue on-ramp. A red Cadillac, which was being driven by a Hayward man at "a very high rate of speed," careened into the right side of the CHP vehicle, according to Asst. Chief Ernest Sanchez.

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

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

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.

Procession for Fallen CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri

Ashley Wharton, Camilleri's sister, posted a message about him on Facebook, asking people who knew him to share with the family any photos or memories they have.

She said Camilleri was a "loving" family man, and someone who was "dedicated" to the CHP.

"This was his dream. He always wanted to be a CHP Officer. I'm so happy I got to see him doing what he always wanted to do," Wharton wrote.

Camilleri was a "great" elder brother, who was always in her corner and steadfast with comfort and advice.

"I couldn't ask for a more amazing big brother," Wharton wrote. "I will cherish our memories and he will never be forgotten ... You will be missed and we love you."

Saturday's memorial will take place at the Christian Life Center at 4303 Christian Life Way, Stockton, CA 95212. 

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