Calif. motorcycle officer killed during 100-mph pursuit in San Bernardino County; 4 arrested

REDLANDS, Calif. (AP) — A California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer chasing four suspects in San Bernardino County smashed into a tractor-trailer and was killed Friday morning in a pursuit authorities said reached 100 mph.

The accident happened after seven-year veteran Tom Coleman tried to pull over a car suspected of vehicle code violations, but the driver refused to stop, CHP spokesman Daniel Hesser said. Coleman gave chase but crashed a few minutes later, his motorcycle bursting into flames as he landed several yards away.

He was pronounced dead at the Redlands intersection around 6:30 a.m., Hesser said.

The suspects' car crashed into a curb several blocks away. The four occupants were captured and arrested on undisclosed charges, Hesser said.

Coleman, whose age was not released, was married with two children.

At the scene, the badly charred, mangled wreckage of his motorcycle and his helmet lay nearby. Officers lined up and saluted their fallen colleague as his body was removed on a gurney covered with an American flag.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered his condolences to Coleman's family and ordered flags at the state Capitol to fly at half staff for three days.

"Officer Thomas Coleman committed his life to protecting the safety of the people of California," Schwarzenegger said. "He was an outstanding officer who demonstrated his dedication and selflessness through his hard work in the line of duty."

Coleman is the second CHP motorcycle officer involved in a serious crash this week. Phillip Ortiz, a 27-year veteran, remained in critical condition Friday after being hit by a motorist Wednesday on a freeway shoulder in Los Angeles. The CHP said his condition was not expected to improve anytime soon.

CHP has a peer support network and mandates grief counseling for officers who knew the victims, said CHP spokesman Leland Tang. But he added that with such serious accidents, even officers who are not personally acquainted with the victims are affected.

"It hits home as to the dangerous nature of our job," Tang said. "It reminds us to be extra careful. It hits all of us."

A Los Angeles Police Department officer also suffered minor injuries Friday when his motorcycle crashed on Interstate 105 in South Los Angeles.