Los Angeles, CA – Gardena Police Department Officer Toshio Hirai died in the line of duty on Nov. 15, after he was injured in a three-vehicle crash while traveling to work.
Officer Hirai, a Gardena motorcycle officer, was riding along Western Avenue just before 8 a.m. on Nov. 14 when the collision occurred, Gardena Police Chief Tom Kang said during a press conference, according to the Daily Breeze.
Officer Hirai and a 17-year-old girl were both transported to a local hospital, where the officer underwent surgery.
The girl’s condition was not released.
“A number of outstanding doctors, nurses and other hospital staff members did all that they could to try to save Toshio,” the Gardena Police Department said in a Facebook post on Nov. 15. “While doctors did their best to try and save him, he died at the hospital late this afternoon.”
Chief Kang said he had known Officer Hirai since long before he joined the force, and that he felt as if the officer was his own son, the Daily Breeze reported.
“He would go out of his way to help anyone and he was a mentor to a lot of our officers,” the chief said. “We’re truly going to miss him.”
Just two months ago, they sat down to discuss Officer Hirai’s goals for the next 10 years of his career.
“He said he wanted to keep mentoring and training others in the department,” Chief Kang recalled. “He wanted to bring SWAT to a greater level and toward the end of his career, he told me he would like to promote and be a part of leadership. He had a lot of great leadership qualities.”
The chief said he had no doubt that Officer Hirai would have carried through with all of his plans.
“He would have been successful,” he said. “I did see that potential in him just by his mere action, his passion for police work and people and his love for the community.”
Officer Hirai joined the Gardena Police Department in 2006, according to his department.
He served as a motor officer, was a member of the SWAT team, and served as a traffic investigator.
“Toshio was one of the smartest people in the room,” the agency wrote. “He spoke five languages, loved life, had the best sense of humor. He worked hard for our community.”
“Most of all he absolutely loved and cherished his wife and 2-year-old son,” the post read.
On Friday night, several hundred friends, family members, and fellow officers gathered for a vigil outside the department’s headquarters, the Daily Breeze reported.
“He did anything and everything all-out,” Officer Hirai’s widow, Kristen, told those in attendance. “He always just wanted to do his best.”
"I wish you could all meet him," she said, according to KTLA. "He would have touched your heart."
Gardena Police Lieutenant Patrick Goodpaster said Officer Hirai loved being a father, the Daily Breeze reported.
“He was committed to being a dad and doing it the right way, every day,” Lt. Goodpaster said. “I feel for everyone here and no words can describe what his family must be feeling.”
The community has rallied around Officer Hirai’s family and colleagues in the wake of his tragic death, Gardena Police Lieutenant Steve Prendergast said.
“I’m not surprised,” the lieutenant added. “This community has been nothing but amazing and supportive. It’s impactful, overwhelming, emotional and heartwarming.”
Lt. Prendergast vowed that the department would always be there to help Kristen and her son, Takeo, KTLA reported.
"He has a bunch of fathers to help him," he said. "We're going to teach him everything that Toshio would want him to know — all his passions, everything that he loved."
Officer Hirai will be remembered as “a warrior, a great man, a great husband, an amazing father, [and] an amazing cop,” Lt. Prendergast said.
California Governor Jerry Brown ordered that the flags at the State Capitol be flown at half-staff in honor of Officer Hirai, the Daily Breeze reported.
“Anne and I join all Californians in mourning the loss of Officer Hirai, whose years of dedicated service to the Gardena community will always be remembered,” Brown said in a statement, according to the Daily Breeze. “Our thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and fellow officers in this difficult time.”
The Gardena Police Officers’ Association and the 999 Police & Sheriff Foundation has established a fundraising site to help Officer Hirai’s family in the wake of their loss.
On Sunday, the department released a Facebook video in honor of the fallen officer, and called him “the best of the best.”
“He will forever be missed,” the agency wrote.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Gardena Police Officer Toshio Hirai, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.