LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The police officer who died trying to recover his patrol car from a man authorities said drove off with it was recalled warmly by colleagues for his sense of humor and his willingness to shepherd visitors through cavernous Los Angeles International Airport.
Officer Tommy Edward Scott was killed Friday when his patrol car crashed into a fire hydrant as he was hanging halfway out of the vehicle, authorities said. He was the first officer to die in the line of duty in the 59-year history of the Los Angeles Airport Police, which is a separate agency from the Los Angeles Police Department.
''He was one of those guys that was just always happy to be here when he was here,'' said Marshall McClain, a friend and board member of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. ''He made people laugh. He'd come in to roll call, and he'd always have something funny to say.''
Colleagues said Scott, 35, was frequently the officer chosen to show visitors around the world's fifth-busiest airport and explain airport police procedures.
''Officer Scott was one of the most respected and admired officers on our force,'' said airport Police Chief Bernard Wilson.
Police said Scott got into a scuffle with William Sadowski near the airport Friday morning and that Sadowski, 46, somehow got control of the officer's patrol car and sped away.
After the crash, police said, Sadowski carjacked an SUV and crashed it on airport property. The suspect, who underwent surgery at a hospital Friday, was expected to be booked for investigation of murder, said Deputy Chief Michel Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mayor James Hahn ordered city flags lowered to half-staff in Scott's memory.
''My heart and prayers go out to this officer's family, friends and co-workers,'' Hahn said.
Police released few details about Sadowski, but an acquaintance told the Los Angeles Times he was a homeless man who lived out of his car in the city's beach-front community of Venice. He also frequented an Internet cafe where he would surf the Web, check his e-mail and talk politics, said Sean St. John, who worked there.
''He was never aggressive in trying to prove his point if you didn't agree,'' St. John said. ''He was pretty much a regular guy, he seemed very peaceful. He seemed like he very much believed in good energy and more of that spiritual kind of stuff.''