On the morning of September 23, 2005, CHP Santa Fe Springs substation suffered its second Line-of-Duty loss is little over a year. CHP Motor Officer David Marin Romero was struck down and killed by a driver suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance. At the time of the accident, the suspect was on probation for a prior DUI conviction.
After working a street racing detail that went into the early morning hours of Friday, September 23, Officer Romero reported for “A” watch and had planned to work through the morning commute hours and go home around 10:00 a.m. Shortly before 10 a.m. Officer Romero was riding his departmental motorcycle on patrol, stopped at a red traffic signal in the left hand turn lane on northbound Turnbull Canyon Road at Valley Boulevard in the City of Industry. Romero was very familiar with this intersection. He had friends at several restaurants in the area, his friend Rene owned the tire shop on the southwest corner, and he knew almost everyone at Haddick’s Towing on Valley Blvd., 100 yards west of Turnbull Canyon Road.
Rudy Lopez Saldana (26) was also driving northbound on Turnbull Canyon Road, approaching Valley Boulevard. Reportedly Romero saw Saldana’s vehicle approaching him from the rear at a high rate of speed. “He noticed that the fast approaching vehicle was coming up from behind,” said CHP Officer John Escovido. “He attempted to gain the attention of that driver by waving his arms and turning on his emergency lights.” Despite those efforts, Saldana’s vehicle continued toward Officer Romero and struck him without slowing. Officer Romero and his motorcycle were propelled across the intersection. Investigators estimate that Saldana was going nearly 60 miles per hour when he hit the motorcycle. After hitting Romero, Saldana’s vehicle continued into the intersection and was broadsided by another car. Saldana and the driver of the other car suffered minor injuries.
Citizens called 911 and “Officer Down” was broadcast to both CHP and allied agencies in the area. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy and lieutenant were the first to arrive, and immediately began CPR on Officer Romero. Also responding was Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Air Rescue 5 was immediately dispatched and before Santa Fe Springs personnel could arrive on scene, Officer Romero was loaded for transport. Not wanting Romero to be transported without his “CHP family,” Baldwin Park Area Officer Mark Cadena jumped into the helicopter. Officer Romero was airlifted to Los Angeles County/U.S.C. Medical Center where he succumbed from injuries.
Born April 2, 1958, in West Covina, Calif., Officer Romero grew up in Hacienda Heights and attended Los Altos High School. Dave graduated from the CHP Academy on May 27, 1982, and was a motor officer for 21 years. Spending all but seven months of his CHP career at the Santa Fe Springs Area office, he liked to work near the same schools he attended and never wanted to leave the community he loved.
Officer Romero is survived by his wife, Sandra; children Austin, Windsor, and David; stepchildren Victor and Vanessa; brother Gregory Romero; sisters Lydia Huard and Sylvia Romero; and many other relatives and friends. Dave was a devoted husband, loving father, brother, uncle, and friend. He is described by his son as someone who was always there for his family. “Anything we needed, he was the first person we could go to,” said Austin Romero. Romero enjoyed coaching his children’s sporting events, dirt bike riding, and water skiing with his family and fellow officers. All who knew Romero say he truly loved life and lived his to the fullest.
The criminal investigation is being conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Homicide Bureau, and CHP Southern Division personnel are assisting homicide detectives in preparing the case for trial. Rudy Lopez Saldana faces two counts: murder of a peace officer and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Investigators believe Saldana was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the collision. Saldana has a criminal history that includes a DUI conviction for which he is currently on probation. He was arraigned in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, September 28 – the same day as Officer Romero’s funeral.
Nearly 2,500 people attended memorial services for Officer Romero, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, CHP Commissioner Mike Brown, and fellow law enforcement officers from throughout the state of California. From the Calvary Chapel in Downey, a massive procession followed a limousine carrying Romero’s coffin to Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. Overhead, three CHP helicopters flew in “missing man” formation, a bugler played taps, and a rifle salute echoed across the cemetery. Motorcycle officers placed their white gloves on the casket and CHP officials presented his widow with American and California flags. Romero’s children laid white and red roses on his coffin as white doves circled above.
A trust fund has been established in memory of Officer David Romero. Donations can be made to:
David Romero Memorial Fund
c/o Rancho Bank
P.O. Box 697
San Dimas, CA 91773