The Arizona Department of Public Safety officer killed Monday evening east of Yuma has been identified as Tim Huffman, a 14-year DPS veteran who had worked out of the Yuma area his entire career.
His death came just two hours before a state ceremony honoring fallen law enforcement officers. Huffman became the 29th DPS officer to lose his life in the line of duty.
"It’s another reminder of how police officers put their lives on the line every day in service to their communities," said Robert Halliday, DPS director.
Out of respect for Huffman, Gov. Janice Brewer ordered that flags at all state buildings fly at half-staff until sunset Tuesday and again on the day of Huffman’s burial. "I encourage all individuals and businesses to join in this tribute."
Huffman and two other DPS officers were investigating an injury accident at about 5:10 p.m. Monday on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 8 at milepost 40, according to the agency. At the request of the responding fire department, the officers were closing the No. 2 lane to allow the transport of the injured party.
One patrol car with the emergency lights flashing was parked in the lane and Huffman’s vehicle was parked a few feet away on the shoulder. Huffman was seated in his vehicle, writing a report.
Moments later an empty tanker truck traveling eastbound in the No. 2 lane approached the closure, according to DPS. Despite the flashing lights and a DPS officer’s attempt to signal to the truck driver, the semi-truck struck the patrol vehicle in the No. 2 lane, pushing it into Huffman’s vehicle. The officer was able to jump out of the way moments before the crash.
However, the force of the impact killed Huffman, who was still inside his vehicle. Officials said Huffman died on impact and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the semi-truck was identified by DPS as Jorge Espinoza, 33, of Yuma. At the time of the crash, Espinoza was traveling from Yuma to Phoenix. He was not injured in the crash and is cooperating with investigators. He is currently not in custody but the investigation continues, DPS reported.
Huffman was 47. Officials said Huffman was not married but is survived by three siblings who live out of state. Funeral arrangements are pending.
"Yesterday, Arizonans joined together to pay honor and respect to our fallen peace officers — to the heroes who patrol our streets, protect our borders and keep us and our families safe from harm. Yesterday, in the most tragic of coincidences, we lost one of those very heroes," Brewer said in a news release.
"Tragedies like this remind us that, for our men and women of the badge, no task is ever routine. No day is ever without peril. Individuals like Officer Huffman dedicate their entire lives to protecting ours, and for that we owe them our eternal indebtedness. Please join me in holding Officer Huffman, his family and his brothers and sisters on the force forever in prayer and memory."