Sgt. Maj. Robert J. Cottle was a well-liked SWAT officer who was also a Marine. This week he was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Officer Cottle is the first Los Angeles police officer to be killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he had known Cottle for 20 years. and was “deeply saddened” by his death. Beck also said he would talk to reporters about Cottle after Friday’s 9 a.m. recruit graduation ceremony,
LAPPL President Paul Weber was also particularly warm in his praise. “As a SWAT officer, R.J. was a tactical genius,” wrote Weber in the police union’s statement on Thursday late afternoon. “His military service gave him unique skills that he generously shared with fellow officers.”
Cottle leaves behind a wife and a young daughter.
The LA Times has more specific information on the circumstances of Cottle’s death:
[Cottle], 45, was traveling with three other Marines in the Marja region of the country, which has been the focus of an intense U.S.-led offensive against Taliban forces in recent weeks, said LAPD Capt. John Incontro, who oversees SWAT operations.
Their armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, killing Cottle and another Marine and seriously wounding the two others, Incontro said. No other details of the incident were available. Cottle, who joined the LAPD in 1990 and won one of the coveted SWAT positions six years later, is the first active LAPD officer to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, police officials said.
A veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, Cottle had deployed to Afghanistan in August last year and was scheduled to return home this summer.
A somber mood fell over the department’s Elysian Park training academy Wednesday afternoon, as members of the tightly knit SWAT unit were summoned to receive news of Cottle’s death from command staff. Officers recalled a friend who stood out even in the rarefied air of SWAT for the intensity he brought to the LAPD’s most demanding assignment and the care he showed for other officers who had turned him into one of the unit’s leaders.
Incontro remembered the night in 2008 when another SWAT officer, Randall Simmons, was killed during a prolonged standoff with a man who had killed several people and then barricaded himself in a house. After Simmons was shot and rushed to a hospital, Cottle went from one SWAT officer to the next, helping to calm them and keep them focused on the still-unfolding situation.
Here’s a randomly chosen 2008 account of the type of thing that R.J. Cottle did as an LAPD SWAT officer.
Bottom line: It sounds as if an exceptionally good man has been lost.