Family and colleagues mourn death of CHP officer in Paso Robles

Driver who hit CHP vehicle is arrested on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJune 28, 2010 

The CHP officer who died late Sunday after being hit by a car while on duty just south of Paso Robles was described as a devoted husband, loyal friend and hardworking man.

Local CHP leaders on Monday thanked the public for an outpouring of support for the loss of officer Brett Oswald, 47, of Atascadero. They said Oswald’s family is devastated.

“Brett was her life. That’s what she said,” CHP Chief Adam Cuevas said of Oswald’s wife, Marlena, who spoke to the chief after the accident.

The woman driving the car that hit Oswald’s vehicle, Kaylee Weisenberg, has been arrested. Counseling has been made available to officers distraught over Oswald’s death, said Cuevas, of the CHP Coastal Division.

Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger said in a statement Monday, “Officer Oswald was a real hero — one of California’s bravest. He risked his life day in and day out to protect the safety of Californians.”

American flags and flowers were placed along the accident site at South River Road on Monday, and Facebook pages displayed loving notes and memories of Oswald.

A convoy of law enforcement units escorted a hearse to the Chapel of the Roses in Atascadero late Sunday, according to CHP dispatches.

A memorial is planned for Friday at the Paso Robles Event Center, Cuevas said. A time has not yet been announced.

Oswald was born in the Bay Area city of San Rafael and graduated from Sam Barlow High School in Gresham, Ore., in 1980. He joined the CHP in 1990 at the age of 28 and the Army in 2006, the CHP said.

After graduating from the CHP Academy, he was assigned to the Santa Fe Springs area in Southern California for seven years before transferring to King City in Monterey County.

In 1998, he was selected to join the Coastal Division Air Operations Unit, where he served as a flight officer — which his peers say he loved — for nearly 10 years before he transferred back to road patrol. He was assigned temporarily to the Templeton station May 3.

In addition to his wife, Oswald leaves behind his parents, Linda and Richard Oswald, and two sisters, Trish and Trinda. Their last names and places of residence were not disclosed.

The Tribune couldn’t reach the family for further comment Monday.

How it happened

Oswald had been outside his patrol car and waiting for a tow truck for an abandoned vehicle that had been reported just before 6 p.m. when a vehicle struck him.

Oswald had positioned his vehicle just behind the abandoned vehicle that was partially in the roadway on southbound South River Road, according to the CHP.

“He did exactly what I would have done,” Cuevas said, noting that officers are trained to follow their best judgment in a variety of response calls. “He put cones out and set up his vehicle in the perfect location. Ultimately, you have to count on other drivers (to be safe).”

Weisenberg, 22, of Atascadero, was driving a Toyota Corolla northbound on South River Road near Spanish Camp Road. She turned a corner at high speed and lost control just after 6:30 p.m., according to the CHP.

The Toyota hit Oswald’s patrol car, according to the Sheriff’s Department, sending it forward to where it hit him.

Other details, such as whether the patrol car’s light bar was on or whether Weisenberg was intoxicated, are not yet being disclosed because the investigation is still open, Cuevas said.

Weisenberg was booked into County Jail at 2:50 a.m. Monday after being released from Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, where she was treated for minor injuries.

She was arrested on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving with a suspended license, according to the jail.

As of late Monday, she remained there in lieu of $56,500 bail, according to the jail website. No information has been made available on why Weisenberg’s driver’s license was suspended.

But according to court records, she was arrested on Jan. 13 on suspicion of driving with a suspended license and failed to appear twice in court, according to the county District Attorney’s Office.

She was pulled over Jan. 13 in Paso Robles for a suspected loud noise violation, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Charges have so far not been filed against the owner of the abandoned vehicle, Cuevas said. Information on the owner was not disclosed.

Staff writer Nick Wilson contributed to this report.

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