A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department motor deputy who was killed in a crash in the Lakewood area Thursday morning has been identified as a 41-year-old husband, father and Marine veteran.
The fatal collision occurred shortly before 9 a.m. as Deputy Thomas Albanese was trying to initiate a traffic stop on a motorist in front of him, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Albanese was traveling northbound on Paramount and approaching Del Amo when he entered the intersection and collided with a Mercedes-Benz, according to the sheriff. The car had come from the westbound direction of Del Amo and was in the left turn lane.
“The force of the collision, which was — it was extreme — it basically threw him a distance from the collision. He died instantaneously, on impact,” Villanueva said at an afternoon news briefing.
The Mercedes driver was treated at the scene but not transported, according to officials.
Sky5 video over the crash site showed the mangled wreck of the motorcycle at the front-end of a silver sedan in the middle of the intersection. Debris was strewn about the roadway.
A witness told KTLA that it appeared the motor deputy was pursuing a Dodge Charger through the intersection when it collided with the other vehicle.
“It looks like a motorcycle cop was chasing the Charger on Paramount Boulevard traveling northbound and a Mercedes came out of Del Amo and the motorcycle cop hit the Mercedes,” the witness said.
Earlier, the sheriff had described the collision as an “unfortunate accident.”
The crash remains under investigation, and officials will use surveillance video and other evidence to determine the cause. The investigation will include a look at the vehicle that was the subject of the attempted traffic stop.
“That’ll be up to the investigators to determine if it is something worthy of them pursuing as a course of this investigation,” Villanueva said.
Albanese had been with the department since July 2013, and was last assigned to the department’s Pico Rivera station. But the motor deputy had been working overtime at the Lakewood station, where he previously worked as a field training officer, at the time of the collision, according to the sheriff.
He is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 7 and 11.
Retired L.A. Police Department Detective Moses Castillo had told KTLA Albanese was the son of a former LAPD deputy chief, but Castillo later said that was not the case.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Albanese had finished and survived four tours of duty in Iraq and was a “highly decorated individual,” Villanueva said. He served in the Marines for almost 10 years, from 2001 to 2010.
But it had been his dream to become a motorcycle deputy, something that became reality when he passed motor school last March. Since then, Albanese had been assigned to the Pico Rivera station.
“It’s just a tough day for everybody,” Villanueva said. “He will be missed.”
A procession escorted his body to the L.A. County coroner’s office more than three hours after the crash.
“Along the way, it was very touching to see all the residents of Lakewood coming out, saluting the procession as it went by,” the sheriff said.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to raise money for Albanese’s family. The page’s author wrote the money will “ensure that Thomas’ wife and sons want for nothing during this excruciatingly painful time.”