HEMET: K-9 handler injured in collision while responding to officer’s emergency call for assistance

HEMET – Details are still emerging after the City of Hemet Police Department’s newest K-9 handler was involved in a minor injury traffic collision Friday evening, April 28. The officer was injured while responding to another officer’s emergency call for assistance. The officer who called for priority assistance was struggling to apprehend a combative subject during an arrest.

The patrol vehicle nearly struck a standpipe and a business after being hit. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

In the moments immediately after being involved in the traffic collision, while the officer sat dazed in his badly damaged patrol vehicle, witnesses saw an unidentified man run up to the side of the officer’s vehicle and begin furiously yelling profanities at the officer, who was still recovering from the initial impact.

The man, who was not involved in the collision in any way, only left the area after Gary Rainwater – a community reporter for Hemet News – intervened on the officer’s behalf.

Rainwater reportedly put himself between the highly agitated and shouting man and the officer, who “was clearly dazed and still sitting in his car,” Rainwater later explained.

While the angry man was leaving he was still reportedly yelling and cursing towards the officer. As Rainwater continued to intervene – telling the angry man he needed to leave – the man pulled out a cell phone and began photographing Rainwater while continuing to yell at and berate the injured and stunned officer.

The accident, that left both the officer and the other driver with minor injuries, happened at the intersection of W. Acacia and S. Palm Avenues in Hemet.

The two vehicles smashed into each other while the officer was crossing a four-way-stop intersection. The officer’s lights and siren were activated when the two cars collided in the middle of the intersection.

Firefighter/paramedics evaluate the injured K-9 handler. Gary Rainwater/Hemet News photo

Emergency first responders evaluated and treated both victims at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle, described only as an elderly male, had minor complaints of pain and he reportedly declined further medical treatment at the scene.

Witnesses at the scene said it appeared the officer suffered an injury to his arm and a minor head wound.

After the injured K-9 handler was evaluated at the scene, a supervisor reportedly drove him to a nearby hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Both vehicles sustained heavy damage in the collision, which caused both cars to jump a curb before the patrol car struck a large palm tree head-on.

After the wreck, the driver’s side of the patrol vehicle came to rest nearly against the exterior wall of a business with the crumpled bumper against the palm tree. The other car came to rest on the sidewalk, facing the wrong direction. Neither vehicle were operable and both later had to be towed from the scene.

The incident began just after 7 p.m., when a Hemet police officer put out an emergency call for assistance in the area of N. Weston Place and E. Date Street. The officer advised emergency dispatchers a suspect was fighting with him, and the officer requested priority, emergency response.

The other victim’s car was heavily damaged in the accident. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

About three minutes later, while officers were still responding to the location, the officer needing emergency assistance advised he was still fighting with at least one subject.

As the officer was attempting to communicate with dispatchers, he sounded out of breath and a major verbal confrontation and violent struggle could be heard in the background.

At 7:08 p.m., just as responding officers began to arrive at the scene where the officer was calling for assistance, the city’s newest K-9 handler – also known as “King-2” – advised emergency dispatchers he had just been involved in a traffic collision with another vehicle.

The officer clearly sounded dazed and in pain as he made his radio transmissions, requesting medical and police officials to the location.

It was not immediately known if the K-9 handler had his partner “Mac” with him at the time of the collision. No updates or information had been provided regarding the accident or the nature and extent of the K-9 handler’s injuries.

Within moments of the reported accident, officers at the scene of the original emergency call for assistance managed to bring that situation under control, allowing numerous officers to break away from that call for help and respond to the location of the officer’s traffic collision.

The scene was chaotic in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Gary Rainwater/Hemet News photo

Several fire engines, a paramedic squad, a battalion commander and American Medical Response medics and a supervisor began arriving at the scene of the traffic collision within minutes.

Officers called for the closure of westbound lanes of Acacia Avenue at Gilbert Street, while they worked to clear the chaotic scene and investigate the accident.

Officials remained at the scene of the accident for several hours, while they investigated the collision.

The crash investigation is being conducted by California Highway Patrol officials.

Rainwater, who was a few cars behind the K-9 handler when the accident happened and said he had already provided a statement to officers investigating the accident, later explained he saw the officer driving westbound on W. Acacia Avenue towards the intersection of N. Palm Avenue.

“The officer was responding Code-3, with his lights and siren activated,” Rainwater explained. “As the officer went through the intersection, it looked like the older gentleman didn’t see or hear the officer coming and he just pulled out and plowed right into the side of the officer’s car.”

The K-9 handler comforts and talks with the other driver, an elderly man, who was involved in the accident with the patrol car. Gary Rainwater/Hemet News photo

“As the officer approached the intersection, I saw his break lights,” said Rainwater. “Then as (the officer) entered the intersection he suddenly swerved hard and I saw his whole back-end come up off the ground when the two cars smashed into each other.”

“At first I couldn’t believe I had just seen the crash and then that guy was right in the officer’s face, yelling at him. It was so intense and everything happened so fast, I didn’t really have time to think about what was happening,” Rainwater explained. “I just wanted to help any way that I could.”

After the officer’s initial investigation and once the damaged vehicles had been towed from the scene, officers re-opened the roadway shortly after 9 p.m.

The outcome of the original incident and emergency call for assistance was not immediately known.

This is a developing story. Additional information will be updated as it becomes available.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.