A suburban Salt Lake City police officer was killed Sunday when authorities say he was struck by people fleeing in a stolen vehicle, the AP reports. West Valley City police Officer Cody Brotherson was deploying tire spikes when he was hit, authorities said. He is the first officer to die in the line of duty since the department formed in 1980. "A West Valley born and bred individual and our hearts are heavy with his loss," Police Chief Lee Russo said at a news conference just hours after the officer's death. According to Russo, it was not clear why the 25-year-old officer was outside his vehicle since spike strips had already been deployed before he was hit. "He was certainly responding to the coordinated effort in stopping this vehicle," Russo said. However, the chief said it was not yet clear if the suspects deliberately hit Brotherson.
The incident began around 3:30am when an officer noticed a suspicious vehicle. Officers then witnessed three people in the car steal another vehicle from the parking lot of an apartment complex, police said. They tried to stop the vehicle but the suspects fled, leading to a pursuit. Less than a minute later, an officer called for medical help for Brotherson. He died at the scene. After hitting Brotherson, the vehicle went off the road and came to rest a short distance away. All three people in the stolen vehicle were taken into custody. They are still being questioned, police said. Their identities were not released. Brotherson joined the department in December 2013. He is survived by a fiance, his parents and two brothers. Dozens of officers saluted as his body was loaded into a hearse, which was escorted by police cars to the state medical examiner's office. (Read more Utah stories.)