Sanger, CA – Fresno Police Department (FDP) Officer Phia Vang died in a vehicle collision on Monday, after a wrong-way driver crashed into five other vehicles, then slammed into the officer’s truck head-on.
Officer Vang, 48, was heading home from work at the time, and was still wearing part of his uniform when the fatal collision occurred, KFSN reported.
The incident began just before 5 p.m., when 33-year-old real estate agent Cameron Pryor began weaving his 2014 Chevy Silverado all over the road, a witness told KFSN.
He then drove eastbound into oncoming traffic on Highway 180.
Before responding officers were able to intercept him, Pryor ran into at least five other vehicles, KSEE reported.
He then slammed his pickup truck into Officer Vang, who was driving a Dodge Ram 2500, according to KFSN.
"As a result of that last collision, both the wrong way driver and the last driver succumbed to their injuries at the scene," California Highway Patrol Sergeant Joseph Bianchi told KSEE.
When first responders realized that Officer Vang was an officer with the police department, they covered his body with an American flag, KFSN reported.
Motorists inside the five other vehicles were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, including whether or not Pryor might have been driving while impaired.
"We are investigating alcohol and drugs as a factor but we don't know," Sgt. Bianchi said.
Pryor was convicted of driving under the influence in 2011, KFSN reported.
In Sept. of 2018, a motorcyclist was killed after he ran into the back of Pryor’s truck. Several days later, Pryor was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, but was not charged because his toxicology reports came back negative.
He recently relapsed, but refused to enter into a drug treatment center last week, one of Pryor’s close friends told the news outlet.
Officer Vang, a 26-year veteran of the department, leaves behind his wife and four children, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
"They just lost someone that cannot be replaced,” Chief Dyer told KFSN. “[His] wife was in tears holding a picture of Phia, and with tears falling down she was so broken.”
Officer Vang served in many capacities during his decades with the department, including being assigned to the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium, patrol, and neighborhood policing, GV Wire reported.
"It's a loss for the family, it's a loss for the Fresno Police Department, and it's certainly a loss for this community,” the chief continued. “Phia Vang is somebody who's left his mark.”
Officer Vang was also one of the first Hmong officers in the department, and was an asset during interactions with the local Hmong community, Fresno Police Officers Association (FPOA) President Todd Fraizer told KFSN.
"He is considered a hero in the Hmong community and a role model and somebody they looked upon and respected, and he earned every bit of that," Frazier added.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said that Officer Vang was a “well-loved and respected” officer, and that his absence will not go unnoticed, KSEE reported.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Vang family during this most difficult time and my condolences go out to his fellow officers,” Brand said.
“We’re fortunate to live in a community that understands and appreciates the important role that law enforcement plays in our everyday lives,” the mayor added. “We’re a better city because of the brave and caring men and women of the Fresno Police Department.”
A fundraising account established to assist Officer Vang’s family in the wake of their tragic loss had raised over $2,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Fresno Police Department Officer Phia Vang, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.