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Bodies of CHP officer, relative to be sent home

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KEN RITTER | August 20, 2013 07:46 PM EST | AP

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LAS VEGAS — The bodies of an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and his brother-in-law will be sent home to Visalia, Calif., after they were both killed trying to stop the theft of the officer's pickup truck from a Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino, authorities said Tuesday.

Veteran CHP Officer Jesus Manuel Magdaleno Jr., 33, was killed in the Sunday morning wreck and his sister's husband, Felix Brandon Cruz III, 31, was pronounced dead Monday evening at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

It was not clear if James Robert Montgomery, 29, of Tustin, Calif., would appear Wednesday before a judge on felony murder, kidnapping, auto theft, battery and robbery charges. It also wasn't clear if Montgomery had been assigned a lawyer.

Montgomery remained hospitalized Tuesday after being injured in the Sunday crash, Las Vegas police Officer Jose Hernandez said.

No services were immediately scheduled for the two men, according to an official at the funeral home handling arrangements.

Magdaleno and Cruz were in Las Vegas for Magdaleno's bachelor party, and police say they were loading Magdaleno's pickup with luggage at checkout time when Montgomery got into the driver's seat of the Ford F-150 pickup and drove away from the valet area at the Flamingo hotel-casino.

Magdaleno ran after the pickup, shouting that he was a CHP officer and jumping into the cargo bed with Cruz, according to security video and witness accounts. The video has not been made public.

The pickup sped wildly away from the Strip, mowing down construction cones and speeding through red lights on an Interstate 15 overpass. Police said it collided with an SUV and smashed into a traffic signal pole in front of the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, about a mile west of the Flamingo.

Magdaleno and Cruz were fatally injured when they were thrown out of the bed of the pickup. Two children in the SUV were treated for minor injuries, police said.

Magdaleno was an eight-year CHP patrol and training officer assigned to Visalia. He was to be married in September.

Montgomery told police he remembered walking around the Flamingo and being in a car crash, but couldn't remember anything in between, according to his arrest report.

He was seen speaking with a taxi driver before climbing into the driver's seat of Magdaleno's pickup, police said.

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