A first-year Seattle police officer died yesterday in a car accident that occurred just five minutes from the police station where he was scheduled to report for his shift.
Officer Michael E. Kelley, 26, was sworn in less than a month ago. He is survived by his wife who is five months pregnant, and a two-year-old daughter. Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the family had just moved to the area from Portland.
Kelley’s death is particularly jarring to the Seattle PD because he is the third Seattle recruit to die in a traffic accident in the last 13 months. Two of the officers, including Kelley, were killed off duty while they were driving to work.
“We’ve gone through quite a bit, especially with people absolutely so young and just starting their careers with young families,” Kerlikowske told reporters outside Harborview Medical Center where Kelley was pronounced dead.
State troopers say Kelley was driving north just before 7 a.m. in his 2002 Honda Civic, when he made an abrupt lane change while getting off the freeway at Boeing Access Road. His Civic struck a collision barrier barrel and went into a spin. It was then broadsided by a Ford Ranger pickup. The driver of the pickup was treated and released from Valley Medical Center.
The accident is still under investigation.
Kelley graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in international studies. He also served in the Army.
Officer Mark Best of the Tacoma Police Department was one of Kelley’s trainers at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. He praised Kelley for his leadership during training. The other recruits selected him as a squad leader.
“It’s such a terrible shame,” Best told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “He worked so hard to get through the academy, and he didn’t have a chance to go forth with his career.”
Kelley graduated from the academy on Aug. 16.