Officer injured in traffic stop
South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Chuck Owens was hospitalized after he acted as a human shield Monday, pushing a woman out of the path of an out-of-control vehicle.
The 15-year police veteran was working at an icy accident scene when he was hit and pushed down an embankment on Pioneer Trail near Al Tahoe Boulevard.
Owens was on the scene in response to an accident which occurred shortly after 8 a.m.
As he pulled one of the passengers from a car that had slid off the road, a pickup truck approached the scene.
According to police, Daniel Swartz, 37, of South Lake Tahoe, was traveling east on Pioneer Trail when he lost control and slid toward Owens and Barbara Laney, 46, of Arroyo Grande, Calif. Swartz’s truck came to rest directly over, but did not hit, the fallen woman.
“I came over the top of the hill and it was just a sheet of ice,” Swartz said. “I slid right toward them and they dove right where I ended up.”
Owens was in stable condition at Barton Memorial Hospital, where he was expected to spend the night. A hospital representative said Owens’ injuries were not life-threatening.
Laney suffered a cut above her right eye and small abrasions on her forehead. She was treated and released.
“I am so relieved no one was hurt worse,” Swartz said. “You just have these terrible flashes in your mind when you see someone going under your car.”
Placing the safety of others before his own is not out of character for Owens, said police Sgt. Steve O’Brien.
“This is one of many incidents when Chuck has stepped forward and gone the extra mile, only this time it cost him some injuries,” he said.
“(Owens) saved her from serious injury, and may have saved her life,” said Sgt. Bob Jones of the California Highway Patrol, who is investigating the accident for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
Owens founded the South Lake Tahoe Police Department’s Mounted Unit, and is a member of the department’s Hostage Rescue Team.
Police officers are frequently injured or killed in traffic accidents nationwide, said O’Brien.
“This is a very real safety issue for police officers who put themselves in harm’s way making routine (traffic) stops,” O’Brien said.
Jones described the roadway as extremely icy and said the conditions played a large part in Monday’s accidents.
“People should use caution in winter conditions … and be aware that there are other people out on the road,” O’Brien said.
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