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LAPD officer killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb attack [Updated]

March 25, 2010 |  4:20 pm

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Robert Cottle A member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite SWAT unit, who also served as a U.S. Marine, was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb, LAPD officials said.

Sgt. Maj. Robert J. 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.

“He was a very, very special guy,” Incontro said. “He is going to be missed.”

[Updated at 5:15 p.m.: Cottle was sergeant-major (the top enlisted position) with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, based at Camp Pendleton. Among his citations was the Combat Action Ribbon, for having been under fire and returning fire.

At Camp Pendleton, his death was announced Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $13 million training facility to train Marines to detect the improvised explosive devices that are the top weapon used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill and wound U.S. and Afghan troops.

Brig. Gen. Rex McMillian, deputy commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, with a slight catch in his voice, praised Cottle as a fine Marine who had shown leadership in a variety of assignments since joining the Marine Corps in 1983.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released the following statement: “On behalf of the residents of Los Angeles I want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of LAPD Officer Robert Cottle. It is during these times, when tragedy hits home that we are reminded of the dangers our brave men and women in uniform face each day while protecting our country.]

-- Joel Rubin in Los Angeles and Tony Perry in San Diego

Share a memory about Cottle and read stories about more than 580 Californians serving in the U.S. military who have died in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on The Times' California's War Dead database.

Photos credit: LAPD

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