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A truck driver who collided with a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car in Beverly Hills last March, killing one officer and injuring another, has been charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter with negligence.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced the charge on Monday against Robert Maldonado, 46, who was arrested by California Highway Patrol investigators on Feb. 27. Maldonado is charged in the death of LAPD officer Nicholas Chuong Lee, 40, who was assigned to the Hollywood Division.
Lee and his unidentified partner, a probationary officer who had been with the department for approximately three months at the time of the collision, were responding to a call on March 7 of “unknown trouble” and were passing through the city of Beverly Hills when their vehicle was struck by a truck on Loma Vista Drive. The collision caused the truck to flip over, and it came to rest near the intersection of Robert Lane and Loma Vista Drive. Lee’s partner was hospitalized and later released.
Investigators contend that the brakes failed on the truck as Maldonado was driving down Loma Vista Drive, a steep road in the Hollywood Hills above the Sunset Strip. Maldonado, of Pacoima, is an independent operator who owns his own trucking company. He allegedly failed to inspect and maintain his truck, which led to the fatal collision, according to authorities.
The defendant posted $50,000 bail on Feb. 28, and is scheduled to return to court on March 20 for arraignment, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison.
Before his assignment in Hollywood, Lee, a 16-year LAPD veteran, was assigned to the Wilshire and Van Nuys divisions. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. at age 6, along with his parents. The family settled in Koreatown.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck issued a statement about the arrest and felony charge.
“This was a terrible tragedy, and the Los Angeles Police Department thanks the CHP for all their efforts throughout this investigation,” Beck said. “We hope this arrest can bring some small piece of closure to the family. Officer Nick Lee was a great cop and a great man. The LAPD is forever grateful for the 16 years he spent protecting our great city. We will never forget him or his sacrifice.”
Lee was memorialized in front of the Hollywood Division last April with a star on the police station’s memorial walk. The stars are identical to those on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and honor officers from the station who have been killed in the line of duty. Lee was the eighth Hollywood Division officer to receive a star on the memorial walk.
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