ME's office IDs wrong-way driver who hit, killed Mesa officer

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

PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office identified the wrong-way driver who hit and killed an off-duty Mesa police officer Monday morning as 42-year-old Raul Silva Corona, of Phoenix.

Corona died at the scene of the crash on the flyover ramp at the Interstate 10 and US 60 interchange.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, 33 people called 911 as Corona drove 35 miles the wrong way from the Loop 101 Freeway and Cactus Road, down the State Route 51 and eventually to the I-10/US 60 interchange.

A DPS officer tried to ram Corona's vehicle at one point, but was unable to stop him.

In the hours after the deadly wreck, DPS spokesman Carrick Cook said Corona deliberately avoided officers whenever they tried to intercede and get him off the road.

"It's just very difficult to stop a wrong-way driver who's determined not to have any contact with law enforcement," DPS spokesman Bart Graves said Monday evening.

Officer Brandon Mendoza was on his way home from work when he and Corona collided head-on. Corona's vehicle exploded into flames on impact.

Emergency crews rushed Mendoza to Maricopa Medical Center, but doctors could not save him.

A memorial honoring Mendoza has been growing at Guerrero Park, which he was instrumental in rebuilding, since the community learned of his death.

While DPS investigators believe Corona was impaired, they said it will be up to the ME's office to make that determination.

At this point, the ME's office has not released any information about Corona or what state he might have been in when he got behind the wheel.

The 3TV news desk is working to find out more about Corona and what happened in the hours before the wrong-way drive that ended in tragedy.