Louisville, KY – Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Officer Zachary Cottongim died in the line of duty on Saturday after being struck by a vehicle while he was tending to an abandoned vehicle on the side of Interstate 64.
The 29-year-old officer was out on foot near the Mellwood Avenue exit when a westbound driver lost control and crashed into him at approximately 10 a.m. on Dec. 18, LMPD Officer Elizabeth Ruoff told the Courier Journal.
Officer Cottongim was rushed to the University of Louisville Hospital with “serious injuries” and was taken into emergency surgery by approximately 12:30 p.m., LMPD Chief Erika Shields told WDRB.
Medical personnel “tirelessly” worked to save his life for 10 hours, but the young officer did not survive, Chief Shields said.
Investigators said the driver who hit Officer Cottongim remained at the scene and that the LMPD’s Traffic Unit is investigating “all variables” related to the fatal collision, the Courier Journal reported.
Police said a total of three vehicles were involved in the crash, but provided no other details.
Chief Shields said the LMPD is reeling over the tragic loss of Officer Cottongim.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking for the department,” she told WDRB. “There’s not much you can offer folks, especially when there is a death that is so senseless and was avoidable.”
Chief Shields said Officer Cottongim was a “really bright, talented young man” who was just “doing his job, as he did every day,” WDRB reported.
The seven-year LMPD veteran’s father is also a fellow Louisville Metro police officer, according to his obituary.
Officer Cottongim’s wife, Jamie, works for the LMPD as a civilian information process technician, the Courier Journal reported.
Officer Cottongim graduated from Daymar College with a degree in criminal justice prior to joining the department in 2014, according to his obituary.
He was assigned to the LMPD’s First Division, where he served in many roles, to include being a probationary training officer.
Becoming a traffic officer was his ultimate goal.
“There’s an enormous amount of pain for many people in a multitude of assignments,” Chief Shields told the Courier Journal. “He trained officers, he worked different details. It’s heartbreaking.”
The Louisville Metro Council said in a statement Saturday that Officer Cottongim’s “dedication to his community, despite all risks, is to be commended and never forgotten,” the Courier Journal reported.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the loss of the young officer is “devastating.”
“All of our city’s prayers go to his family, his fellow law enforcement officers, all who cared and knew him, and all who were served by his generous spirit,” Fischer told WDRB.
In addition to his wife and father, Officer Cottongim also leaves behind his two young sons, Riley and Alexander, according to his obituary.
He is also survived by his mother, stepparents, siblings, in-laws, nephews, and nieces.
A fundraising page established to help his family in the wake of their loss has raised over $59,000 so far.
Officer Cottongim will be laid to rest Dec. 22.
We are saddened to inform you of the death of Police Officer Zachary Cottongim of the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky.
End of Watch: Saturday, December 18, 2021 pic.twitter.com/i50MB4kuRq
— Thin Blue Line USA (@thinbluelineUSA) December 20, 2021
To the family of Officer Zach Cottongim and the entire LMPD family….prayers and condolences for a life lost too early. Thank you Officer Cottongim for your service to the City of Louisville and the community you served. May you Rest In Peace. God Speed. pic.twitter.com/iYaxM7CzI1
— Amy Holton Stewart (@CWHoltonStewart) December 19, 2021
— LMPD (@LMPD) December 19, 2021
— Jerrica Valtierra WAVE3 (@JerrValtNews) December 19, 2021
RIP. Police Officer Zachary Cottongim was struck and killed by an automobile while attending to an abandoned vehicle on the side of I-64. He is survived by his wife and two children. #rip #hero #endofwatch #police #PoliceOfficerZacharyCottongim #LouisvilleMetroPoliceDepartment pic.twitter.com/X7W9keB5x3
— Protecting the Blue (@protectingblue) December 19, 2021
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Zachary Cottongim, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.