Brewer cites tragic coincidence of DPS fatality

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday it was a tragic coincidence that a state Department of Public Safety officer was killed in a traffic accident on the same day that she and other Arizonans gathered at memorials for fallen law enforcement officers.

Officer Tim Huffman, a 14-year DPS veteran, was killed late Monday when a tanker truck smashed into the vehicles of responders to an accident site near Wellton on Interstate 8 in southwestern Arizona, authorities said.

No one else was injured, though one officer had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by the truck.

The DPS said Huffman, 47, was the 29th officer killed in the line of duty.

Brewer directed that flags at state buildings fly at half-staff until sunset Tuesday in honor of Huffman. She said she will again request that flags be lowered to honor Huffman on the day he is buried. Services were pending.

Brewer noted that she and others attended two memorial services on Monday for fallen officers - a morning ceremony at DPS headquarters and an evening gathering at a Capitol memorial.

"Tragedies like this remind us that, for our men and women of the badge, no task is ever routine," Brewer said in a statement issued by her office. "No day is ever without peril. Individuals like Officer Huffman dedicate their entire lives to protecting ours, and for that, we owe them our eternal indebtedness."

DPS Sgt. Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, said it was "heartbreaking that we have to add another name to our memorial this year."

DPS spokesman Bart Graves said the investigation into the accident was continuing, and he did not expect an immediate decision on whether the driver, 33-year-old Jorge Espinoza of Yuma, would face any charges.

A phone message left at a listing for Espinoza in Yuma was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

It wasn't clear why Espinoza didn't react to patrol cars' flashing lights and the waving of a DPS officer to signal that a lane was closed, Graves said.

Espinoza was cooperating with investigators and there was no indication of impairment, Graves said.

Chavez, who helped train Huffman, said the officer was quiet and dedicated to his work.

"He loved working the road," Chavez said of Huffman.

Huffman is survived by three siblings who live out of state, Graves said.

The previous fatality was the Dec. 17, 2009, death of Officer Christopher R. Marano. The 28-year-old officer died when he was struck by a vehicle while placing a tire-deflation device to attempt to end a pursuit.

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