Mercedes Delgado never wanted her son to become a police officer. Her greatest fear was that Gabriel Perez-Negron would die in the line of duty as had his father, an officer for Mexico’s highway patrol for tourist assistance.
On Saturday, November 4, 1995, her fear was realized. Perez-Negron, 31 died of massive head injuries when his patrol car was broadsided by a speeding car driven by a suspected drunk driver. A recent graduate of the police academy, Perez-Negron had been on patrol at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys Division for only two months.
The officer’s father, Eugenio Perez-Negron, was killed in 1966 in an eerily similar tragedy. He was on patrol when a drunk driver slammed into his vehicle. Like his son, the elder Perez-Negron was 31 at the time of his death, fresh out of police academy, and seated in the passenger side of the vehicle with a training officer behind the wheel.
The crash occurred about 2:45 a.m. when Officer Martin Guerrero, a training officer and six-year veteran, and Perez-Negron were on patrol in Reseda, with visibility poor because of heavy fog.
Tammy G. Danford, 29, was driving an Acura Integra at high speed, officers reported. Witnesses said Danford ran several red lights before slamming into Perez-Negron’s side of the patrol car The LAPD vehicle rolled several times before it came to rest on its right side. Moments later, both cars burst into flames.
A call was radioed into LAPD dispatch from the wrecked patrol car moments after the accident, reportedly by a transient known to area merchants as “Mark.” In addition to reporting the accident, the transient is credited with pulling two of the victims out of their cars before leaving the scene, Vanderburger said.
Perez-Negron and Danford were dead at the scene. Guerrero, 35, suffered broken ribs and serious back injuries. Perez-Negron’s brother said Gabriel dreamed of becoming a police officer because he wanted to help people. “I never saw him as happy as when he received his badge,” he said. “He was preparing himself for years. He didn’t want to be just another police officer He wanted to be the best!”
“Our sense of loss is heightened by the fact that his career was cut so short,” said Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy, commanding officer of the Valley Bureau.
Alfred Perez-Negron said his brother came to the United States alone at age 14, leaving his family behind in Mexico. He found a construction job, then joined the Marines during the Persian Gulf War. He was discharged after graduating from boot camp because of an injury.
Perez-Negron, who was single, became a United States citizen and attended the police academy at the urging of his friend, LAPD officer Al Lopez, and his former boss, construction company owner Eli Bomar.
“After he graduated from the academy, he was very excited, very proud,” Lopez said. “He would have been a really good police officer because he was patient and had a lot of compassion for people.”
Bomar added that Perez-Negron was not only warm and caring but hard-working and ambitious. “I told the LAPD recruiter that Gabriel was almost too nice to be a police officer. He became a family member at my house.”
Gabriel Perez-Negron is survived by his mother Mercedes; brothers Guillermo, Humberto, Alfredo and Rogelio; and a sister, Isela.