Sunday, May 29, 2011

Family of officer killed in crash grief stricken

A relative of a Hawthorne police traffic investigator killed in a motorcycle crash this week said Saturday that the officer's wife and sons remained grief stricken, but were grateful for the support they have received from his colleagues and the citizens he served.

Standing in front of a massive display of flowers honoring Officer Andrew Garton in the Hawthorne police station lobby, Eric Motley said his cousin's 12- and 7-year-old sons "know the sacrifice that he made."

"They know what he did," Motley said. "His oldest son told me that if this was to happen, it happened doing what he loved to do. That broke my heart."

Garton, 44, died Thursday when he and El Segundo police Sgt. Rex Fowler collided on Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance while conducting traffic control for a funeral escort for a Manhattan Beach police officer who died of cancer. Garton was thrown from his motorcycle into oncoming traffic and landed on a car.

Fowler, 47, underwent surgery for a broken leg and is recovering at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Since then, Garton's wife, Tracy, has remained strong, Motley said.

"Obviously we are still in shock as a family. She is still in shock," Motley said. "The support from every officer, the (Hawthorne Police Officers) Association, and the community has been great. It really hasn't sunk in. We thank everybody for their support."

Garton's brother, John, sat next to Motley as he spoke, but did not

speak with reporters.

Motley said Garton worked other jobs, but it was his life's dream to become a police officer.

"When he was accepted into the academy, it was like a 10-year-old kid getting a bicycle," Motley said. "You could see that joy in his eyes. ... He loved his job."

Away from work, Garton enjoyed camping with his family, fishing, coaching baseball, the Boy Scouts and going motorcycle riding with his sons, Motley said.

"He was a devoted husband, dedicated father, a loyal friend and a faithful Christian," the cousin said. "Andrew was a man deeply committed to his principles and worked hard daily to make this life a better place for those he loved."

Motley said Garton had volunteered to participate in the funeral escort for Manhattan Beach police Officer Mark Vasquez "to show his support for the family of a fallen officer."

A fund was established to aid Garton's wife and sons, who often told their friends about their father and his motorcycle.

On Saturday, El Camino Village resident Erik Orre and his sons, Rudy, 10, and Cody, 7, were among those who brought donations to the Hawthorne police station.

"It's just such a tragedy," Orre said. "These two boys are almost the same age as Officer Garton's. I just can't imagine it."

Hawthorne City Council members Angie English and Alex Vargas on Saturday encouraged donations. Each knew the officer well. English said Garton conducted her swearing-in to the council in 2010. Vargas said he had lunch with Garton the day before he died.

"We are reeling from this," Vargas said. "I want to make sure we focus on the family right now in their time of need. We've really got to help them out."

English said she wants to continue Garton's legacy in the city. She called Garton an "honorable individual" who is going to be greatly missed.

Garton, who was on the force for more than seven years, is the first Hawthorne police officer to die in the line of duty in the department's 89 years.


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