Officer is killed in D.C. crash

By Michael Birnbaum and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 31, 2010; C1

A D.C. police officer who died after a car crash Saturday morning "loved" the job, which he had done for almost a year and a half, his sister said Saturday.

Officer Paul Dittamo, 32, was responding to a call when the car he was driving crashed into a utility pole about 1:30 a.m. He was pronounced dead at a hospital a half-hour later, police said.

Dittamo is the first D.C. police officer to die in the line of duty since 2007.

Another officer, a passenger in the car, suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening, authorities said. He was undergoing medical treatment, according to police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump. She did not identify him.

The crash happened in the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE as the officers were traveling to the 1400 block of Morris Road SE. The incident remains under investigation, Crump said.

A police source said the officers were on their way to help evaluate somebody thought to be on PCP.

Dittamo opened and ran a pizza parlor franchise in Woodbridge before he started training to become a police officer.

"He loved it, which is why this is so terrible," Christy Bossard, Dittamo's older sister, said of police work. "He was always looking for, 'What job do I want to do?' "

But this one, Bossard said, he planned to keep.

"It didn't last very long," she said.

Dittamo's family gathered Saturday at the red-brick home in Woodbridge where he grew up as the second-youngest of eight siblings, all of whom live in the Washington area, Bossard said. Dittamo lived with his wife a 15-minute drive away.

"He was the life of the party," Bossard said. "That's why he got into policing, and he always wanted to help people."

During the record snowfalls last winter, she said, Dittamo was the one who took all his nieces and nephews sledding.

Dittamo joined the D.C. police force in June 2009 and worked in the 7th Police District, in the southernmost part of the city. His sister said he enjoyed talking shop with a brother-in-law who is a police officer in Prince William County.

Neighbors on Dittamo's Woodbridge street were shocked to hear the news.

"They were really nice people," Nicky Barnes, who lives next door, said of Dittamo and his wife. "He was always talking to my son when my son is out riding his bike."

Barnes said Dittamo had talked about becoming a police officer in the District. "I know that was something he was pretty excited about," she said.

birnbaumm@washpost.com williamsc@washpost.com

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