Fresno police officer Phia Vang, 48, was the driver of a pickup killed Monday evening by a wrong-way driver on Highway 180 east of Fresno.
The crash took place about 5 p.m., near McCall Avenue as the driver of a Chevrolet pickup was going eastbound in the westbound lanes of 180.
The driver, identified by the Fresno County Coroner as Cameron Pryor, 33, of Fresno, collided with multiple vehicles before slamming into the pickup driven by Vang. Both Pryor and Vang died on impact. The California Highway Patrol is investigating whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash.
Pryor is reportedly the operator of Pryority Real Estate, according to Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner spokesman Tony Botti.
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Acting Chief Pat Farmer reported that Vang was heading home from work at the time of the collision. Farmer said Vang worked a “multitude of other assignments” at the department in southeast, northwest and southwest districts as a patrol officer. He also worked with the MAGEC anti-gang unit and a neighborhood police officer in the northwest district.
He leaves behind his wife, three sons and one daughter.
Farmer said Vang was a gang expert and his ties to Fresno’s Hmong population helped the department build trust in the community.
“Officer Vang was a role model,” Farmer said.
Mayor Lee Brand released a statement on the passing of Vang:
“We are mourning the loss of Police Officer Phia Vang, who passed away Monday afternoon while involved in an off-duty car accident. Officer Vang was a well-loved and respected member of the Fresno Police Department, a 26-year veteran who was most recently assigned to the Fresno Area Express (FAX) Unit, and he will certainly be missed.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Vang family during this most difficult time and my condolences go out to his fellow officers. We’re fortunate to live in a community that understands and appreciates the important role that law enforcement plays in our everyday lives. We’re a better city because of the brave and caring men and women of the Fresno Police Department.”
Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez also mourned the loss in a Facebook post: “Sad day for our city and southeast Fresno. Officer Vang worked our neighborhoods for many years (26 years). Condolences/prayers for our police department and his family. ”