QUARTZSITE, AZ — A sergeant with the La Paz County Sheriff's Office in western Arizona died Monday after he was struck by a commercial vehicle on Interstate 10 during an overnight pursuit — the first line-of-duty death in the agency's history.
The La Paz County Sheriff's Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Quartzsite Police Department were in pursuit of a suspect shortly after midnight, according to a news release from La Paz County Sheriff William Ponce.
The pursuit came to an end near milepost 45, which is about 20 miles east of Quartzsite.
Sheriff Ponce said Sgt. Michael Rudd exited his vehicle and was struck by a commercial vehicle. He was transported to a hospital in Blythe, California, where he later died.
"He wore his heart on his sleeve and he was dedicated to this profession. Unfortunately, he died doing what he loved," Sheriff Ponce said in an interview with ABC15.
Rudd joined the sheriff's office in 2013 and was promoted to sergeant in March 2021, the agency said.
Before his law enforcement career, Rudd served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
He recently married his longtime girlfriend. They each had three children of their own, making them a family of eight.
The driver of the vehicle who hit Sgt. Rudd remained on scene, officials said. That driver has not been identified.
Police said the suspect authorities were in pursuit of was also taken into custody. That suspect has not been identified.
"Sgt. Rudd, you know, went in a burning motor home to get this lady out and, you know, you just knew what he was going to do. He was...a cop's cop," said Chief Deputy David Gray.
Sgt. Rudd's death is a tremendous loss for an area with a population of about 22,000 and a sheriff's office only made up of 100 employees.
"Everybody knows each other; everybody's like family. You know, these men and women work together day in and day out, so they create these bonds. The department right now is hurting. They are in a lot of pain,” said Sheriff Ponce.
"He would always be the last one standing to help everyone else and if you had questions with anything, he would be the one to answer,” said Angelica Robledo, a former 911 dispatcher.
A family friend said she created an online fundraiser through GoFundMe to support Rudd's family.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags to be at half-staff on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in honor of Sgt. Rudd. Flags will also be at half-staff on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, to honor MCSO Deputy Juan Ruiz, who died Monday after he was attacked while booking a man in jail.