Kent, WA – Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno was killed in the line of duty on Sunday morning, when he tried to deploy spike strips during a pursuit and was struck by a fellow officer’s patrol vehicle.
The incident began at approximately 1: 50 a.m., when an officer heard gunfire near a restaurant on West Meeker and Russell Road South and summonsed backup, KOMO reported.
Witnesses at the scene told police that a red pickup was involved in the incident, and pointed the vehicle out to officers.
The driver failed to pull over, and police began pursuing him westbound on State Road 516.
At one point, the driver spun around and headed back towards the officers.
Officer Moreno staged on State Road 516 near Reith Road, and attempted to deploy spike strips when another officer pursuing the fleeing driver crashed into him.
The officer’s patrol vehicle then collided with three other vehicles in a nearby intersection.
The pursuit ended about a mile later, when the pickup driver slammed into a car and rolled onto it’s top. One individual was arrested, and two others remain at large, police said.
Officer Moreno died of his injuries, and the second officer was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
The second officer was listed in “satisfactory” condition on Sunday night, KIRO reported.
Washington State Patrol Captain Ron Mead, whose agency is assisting with the investigation of the multiple crash scenes, choked back tears during a press conference.
"We have troopers, detectives, and officers that are grieving the loss of a fellow officer and at the same time they're trying to piece together what happened to that officer, provide some measure of closure for that officer's family and hold the suspect or suspects responsible for this death," Captain Mead said, according to KOMO. "Make no question about this, were it not for the suspects in this incident, this officer [would still be] alive today.”
“It’s a very sad day for law enforcement, and our hearts go out to the Kent Police Department and law enforcement in general,” he added.
On Sunday and Monday, supporters established a small memorial of balloons, cards and flowers outside the Kent Police Department entrance in honor of Officer Moreno, KOMO reported.
“It just hurts,” retired Eastside Fire and Rescue Lieutenant Maureen Dunn told the news outlet. “You hear the bad stuff about police [but] don’t hear the great things. They saved lives last night getting this person. And no one praises them for that.”
“I think it’s a calling for police and fire. You have that. You want to help people. You’re not there for the glory at all. You’re there to help,” Lt. Dunn explained. “When you see one of your own or your fellow police officers go down, you know they gave it their all and they were doing their best."
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said that the loss of an officer causes a “ripple effect” that lasts for years, KCPQ reported.
“It affects the family, it affects the coworker, it affects the department, it affects the community. And often it does that for years to come,” Sheriff Pastor explained. “His community loves him.”
Officer Moreno, a married father of two young children, grew up in Venezuela, KCPQ reported.
“When I decided that I wanted to start a career in law enforcement, I looked at several agencies,” he told KIRO approximately two years ago. “Luckily, Kent was the first one to give me…an opportunity and I’m glad I took it.”
“I grew up in Venezuela, so a third-world country,” Officer Moreno explained. “Police culture is very different down there.”
He was part of the department’s civil disturbance unit/riot team, and was also a hostage negotiator, defensive tactics instructor, and helped new hires to learn the agency’s computer software programs, he told KIRO.
“[I’m] a fluent Spanish speaker so I get to assist our detectives units a lot with translating for suspects [and] victims,” Officer Moreno explained. “We have a huge Hispanic population in the city of Kent and also in south King County, so I get to help out not only our agency, but other agencies as well.”
Officer Moreno said he received two accommodations during his first six years with the department.
“[They] weren’t expected – they were appreciated,” he told KIRO. “At times, I felt like I didn’t deserve them because I was doing my job just like everybody else.”
Officer Moreno had been with the department for eight years at the time of his death.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Officer Diego Moreno,” the Kent Police Department tweeted on Sunday evening. “He was part of our family and we will always have him in our hearts. Please continue to keep Officer Moreno, his family, friends, and colleagues in your thoughts and prayers.”
Officer Moreno leaves behind his wife, Shelly, as we as their young children, Adrian and Peyton, according to a fundraising account has been established to assist his family.
"It is with the sorrow of a million heartbreaks that I announce the death of my beautiful husband Diego," Shelly said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon. "He was killed in the line of duty last night. Thank you to everyone who has been and will be at our side."
Officer Moreno will be laid to rest on July 31.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.