OKLAHOMA CITY — Two law enforcement officers were killed Thursday when their cars collided during a pursuit in rural western Oklahoma, and the suspect died in a separate crash a few miles away, authorities said.
The Washita County undersheriff was attempting to serve a suspect with a felony warrant about 9:40 a.m. in Sentinel in western Oklahoma when the person fled in a car, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Orr said. About a half-hour later, the suspect crashed and was killed just south of Dill City, about 10 miles from where the pursuit started.
A few miles away, the undersheriff and a police officer from the nearby Burns Flat department crashed their vehicles into each other and also were killed, Orr said.
Both accidents happened in an area about 110 miles west of Oklahoma City. The patrol identified the suspect as Quentin Lee Johnson, but did not immediately release his age or describe the nature of the warrant. The officers' names weren't immediately released.
It's not clear how the Burns Flat officer became involved in the pursuit or what led to the collision, Orr said.
The sheriff's office and Burns Flat city officials referred questions to the patrol. No one answered the phone at the police department.
Washita County, where Dill City and Burns Flat are both located, has about 11,600 residents. Orr said both the sheriff's office and police department are small and their officers are well-known in their communities.
"It's very tragic for not only the police department but the community itself," Orr said. "You just lost two officers that keep you safe at night. It hits home, not only for these agencies but for law enforcement in general for the state of Oklahoma and nationwide."
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a database of slain law enforcement officers, 16 officers in Oklahoma had previously died in vehicle pursuits before Thursday's deaths. Washita County Deputy Douglas Leon Hanna died in an auto accident in 2013, one of two officers who died in the line of duty in Oklahoma last year.
Stillwater Police Chief Norman McNickle, who is president of the board for the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, said statistics show police work involving vehicles is the most dangerous part of the job. But he said Oklahoma has fewer officers dying while in the line of duty compared to other states.
"One is too many. Two at one time is significant," he said.
Associated Press writer Ken Miller contributed from Oklahoma City.