A Stockton Unified School District police sergeant died after the car she was driving collided with another vehicle on southbound Highway 99 about 5:45 a.m. Thursday, according to law enforcement and school district officials.
The driver of the second vehicle, a Dodge, apparently tried to take evasive action to avoid a collision. He was not injured, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The San Joaquin County Coroner's Office could not be reached immediately. But the Stockton Unified School District issued a press release mourning the loss of the officer in the crash and identifying her as 39-year-old Kimberly Pinto.
Witnesses told the CHP that the woman motorist was driving a Honda at high speed in the fast lane south of Galt and was moving from lane to lane to get around slower traffic.
Law enforcement officials said when she entered the Lodi area she came upon the Dodge, also in the fast lane headed south. The driver of the Dodge, traveling about 65 mph, eventually was able to move to the No. 2 lane to make way for the faster car.
But the Honda also moved into the No. 2 lane, and its front end struck the left rear corner of the Dodge. The force of that impact spun the Dodge around counterclockwise, across both southbound lanes. That car hit a tree and came to rest along the west shoulder of the freeway.
The Honda continued "through the Dodge and off the west road edge" before hitting a large eucalyptus tree along the shoulder of the road north of Kettleman Lane. The impact killed the driver and caused major damage to the car, the CHP said.
School officials mourned the loss of Pinto, whom they described as well-liked. She reportedly was driving to work from her home in Sacramento.
Pinto, one of only two sergeants in the district's department, joined Stockton Unified in July 2008, becoming the department's first female sergeant, school officials said. She joined the district after serving on the University of the Pacific police force as a field training officer, among other duties.
For a time, after joining the Stockton district's department, Pinto was the school resource officer at Chavez High School and was part of the department's community policing effort.
"Kimberly Pinto stood tall in our department," said school district Police Chief Jim West. "A natural and talented leader, Kim had all the attributes to be chief one day. Kim brought humor, drive, and competence to everything she undertook. She will be deeply missed both personally and professionally by all who knew her."