On the morning of December 30, 2003, on a remote stretch of U. S. Highway 395 in Inyo County, the California Highway Patrol lost its fourth officer in the line of duty during the year.
Officer Paul H. Pino, a 48 year-old, 23-year veteran of the CHP, was parked on the highway shoulder writing a citation to the operator of a truck that he had stopped, when a late model SUV, driven by Carley M. Crystal, 20, of San Diego veered onto the shoulder at a high rate of speed, striking Pino’s patrol car in the rear, driving the vehicle forward, coming to rest under the bed of the truck that had been stopped.
Officer Pino, suffering massive injuries, was being airlifted to Loma Vista Hospital when he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.
Carley Crystal, the driver of the SUV involved, suffered only minor injuries and was booked for vehicular manslaughter, suspected of driving under the influence. Two male companions, traveling with Carley Crystal, were injured but will survive.
CHP Sgt. Richard Underwood, one of Pino’s supervisors remembered Pino as an outstanding, committed officer, with an exceptional work ethic, “If a call for assistance went out, he was always the first one out the door. If you needed him he was there”.
In memory and honor of Officer Pino, Governor Schwarzenegger ordered the flags flown over the State Capitol to half staff and issued the following statement: “I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Officer Pino. It is a tragedy when an officer is lost in the line of duty while protecting the residents of this great state”.
Paul Pino was born in The Hague, Holland and came to this country as a youngster . He attended school in the Carson area, Los Angeles County, graduated from Carson High School and later received an Associate of Arts Degree in Police Science from Harbor Community College.
Obviously attracted to a career in law enforcement he entered the CHP academy on August 25, 1980. Upon graduation from the CHP Academy on January 1, 1981 he was assigned to the South Los Angeles Area office. He later transferred to the Bishop area where he retired due to an injury. He worked hard to rehabilitate himself and recover from his injury and was reinstated to the job that he loved, returning to the Bishop area.
On Saturday afternoon, January 3, several hundred mourners, including family members, members of the community, fellow CHP officers and peace officers from a multitude of jurisdictions gathered inside and out of the Santa Rosa Catholic Church in Lone Pine, to pay their final respects to a man who was respected and loved by all.
CHP Commissioner Spike Helmick eulogized Officer Pino as “one of those career officers that exemplify everything that is good about the California Highway Patrol. They aggressively seek out assignments in the rural, lesser-populated areas of the State and identify strongly with the community that they serve and where they reside. They patrol the loneliest beats in the State, with courage and pride, and do an outstanding job. Officers like Paul Pino are the backbone of this organization”.
Officer Paul Pino is survived by his wife Carol and daughters Jennifer Pino-Olin, 24, Elizabeth, 22, Patricia, 21, and Alexandra, 15.
For those desiring to assist the family, the “Paul Pino Memorial Fund” has been established at the El Dorado Savings Bank, 400 N. Main St., P.O. Box 67, Lone Pine, CA 93545.