LODI (CBS13) – A Stockton Unified School District police officer was killed in a car accident in Lodi when driving to work from the Sacramento area early Thursday morning.
The California Highway Patrol said Kimberly Pinto was traveling in the southbound lane of Highway 99 near Kettleman Road in Lodi at about 5:45 a.m. when she was involved in a two-vehicle accident.
The CHP said the Honda Accord Pinto was driving collided with another car, careened off the highway and then struck a eucalyptus tree. The driver of the other car, a Dodge Avenger, also spun out off the highway but was not injured, Sgt. Steve True said.
Michael Quackenbush was the driver of the other car.
“She hit me from behind and we started spinning out,” he told CBS13.
Pinto, 39, joined the department in July 2008 and became its first female sergeant. She previously worked for the University of the Pacific police force as a field training officer, among other duties.
“Kimberly Pinto stood tall in our department,” said SUSD Police Chief Jim West in a prepared statement. “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 her knew her.”
Pinto was the school resource officer at Chavez High School before being promoted two years ago.
Students at Chavez High School found out about the news in the middle of finals. Sgt. Pinto was loved on campus, and staff immediately had grief counselors ready to help students.
Principal William Nelson visited with Pinto just a day ago. She was back on campus catching up with her former students.
“It wasn’t just about enforcing the law,” he said. “She built relationships with kids. She built relationships with staff.”
“Kids go up to her, give her hugs, joke around with her, shake her hand, ‘hey Pinto,” he added. “She had that type of relationship with our community.”
Students were shocked by the news, finding out what happened as they finished final exams,
“She always told me to stay out of trouble,” one said. “She was nice. A lot of kids were hurt by it, started crying.”
This school community has lost a titan, a big presence who will never be forgotten.
“It is tough, for me and for a lot of the kids and their families,” Nelson said.
Friday is the final day of the term before winter break, and Principal Nelson said there will be a moment of silence in Pinto’s honor.
Pinto lived in Sacramento with her family. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific and was working on her masters in public administration, according to the school district.