Off-duty Costa Mesa detective who died in solo crash in Orange County identified

Detective Mike Delgadillo, 57, died of injuries he suffered when his car slammed into a pillar under the Costa Mesa 55 Freeway.
Detective Mike Delgadillo, 57, died of injuries he suffered when his car slammed into a pillar under the Costa Mesa 55 Freeway.
Courtesy of NBC LA

A 32-year veteran of the Costa Mesa Police Department died of injuries he suffered when his car slammed into a concrete pillar supporting an overpass.

Detective Mike Delgadillo, 57, was off duty when his car struck the pillar on Bristol Street under the 55 Freeway in Costa Mesa about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to Costa Mesa police Lt. Tim Schennum.

Delgadillo's fellow officers and firefighters rushed him to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he was pronounced dead early Wednesday morning.

No information was made public about the circumstances of the crash.

RELATED: Off-duty Costa Mesa policeman dies in car crash

Mayor Jim Righeimer, who went to the hospital with Councilman Steve Mensinger after Tuesday night's City Council meeting, said: "We're deeply saddened for the family, friends and co-workers."

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who worked with Delgadillo for 11 years as Costa Mesa's prosecutor, told City News Service that "Delgy," as his friends knew him, was a humble, hardworking investigator with a dry sense of humor.

"He was one of those truly dedicated police officers who loved to catch the bad guy," Murphy said. "He was one of the nicest, hard-working, best guys I ever met, and everybody is just shocked."

Delgadillo enjoyed a great deal of popularity on the Costa Mesa force, Murphy said.

"He was one of those old-school cops who got it. He was very streetwise," the prosecutor said. "And he had a wicked sense of humor to go along with it. And, fundamentally, the guy had no ego."

Among Delgadillo's most notable cases was the arrest of Daniel Patrick Wozniak for the dismemberment murder of a neighbor and slaying of the neighbor's friend two years ago, Murphy said.

The accused killer, who is awaiting trial, allegedly tried to make it appear to police that Samuel Herr killed his friend Juri Julie Kibuishi, who was found partially disrobed, according to Murphy.

Delgadillo "smelled that (ruse) out immediately," Murphy said, adding that the detective convinced Wozniak to tell investigators the whereabouts of Herr's remains, which were found in Long Beach.

Delgadillo joined the Costa Mesa police force in October 1981. Among his beats was the sprawling South Coast Plaza shopping center. From 1988 through 1994, he worked with the canine unit and was given multiple commendations for work with his canine partner Nero, Schennum said.

In 1996, Delgadillo joined the gang unit as an investigator, transferring to the anti-drug unit the next year. In 2004, he was assigned to the detective bureau.

He was known as a "loyal, dedicated, hardworking employee," Schennum said.

"Mike is probably best known for his charismatic personality and his strong desire to train and mentor others, by imparting his vast knowledge and many years of experience to the younger and less experienced," Schennum said.

The chiefs of the Costa Mesa police and fire departments visited the crash site early Wednesday morning. Officers affixed black bands to their badges to reflect their loss, and the city's flag was lowered to half-staff.