LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

'It's Heartbreaking': Louisville police officer dies after being hit by vehicle on I-64


A seven-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department died Saturday after he was struck by a vehicle while working on the side of the road.

Officer Zach Cottongim, 29, was tending to an abandoned vehicle around 10 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 64 west when a vehicle lost control and hit him, said LMPD spokeswoman Officer Elizabeth Ruoff.

He underwent surgery at the University of Louisville Hospital but died from his injuries shortly after 9 p.m. Cottongim was in and out of surgeries for 10 hours but couldn't be saved, Chief Erika Shields said late Saturday outside the hospital.

Ruoff noted the incident, which happened near Mellwood Avenue, was not a hit-and-run and said the department's traffic unit is investigating "all variables."

Shields, who called Cottongim a bright, talented young man, said the department is reeling from the incident.

"There's an enormous amount of pain for many people in a multitude of assignments," Shields said Saturday. "He trained officers, he worked different details. It's heartbreaking. There's not much you can offer folks especially when there's a death that's so senseless and avoidable."

LMPD hired Cottongim in September 2014. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the First Division, which includes the Portland, Russell and Butchertown neighborhoods.

Cottongim's father, Dale, is also a Louisville police officer and his wife, Jamie, works for the department as a civilian information process technician. Shields also said Saturday that the department is looking for ways to take care of his wife and their two young children.

The department will navigate ensuring his colleagues, especially the officers who rendered aid to him at the scene, are supported.

"Obviously it's a very traumatic incident," Shields said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer offered his support to Cottongim's family and praised his "generous loving spirit."

The Louisville Metro Council issued a statement late Saturday offering condolences to Cottongim's family and the police department.

"Thank you to the heroic efforts of the medical team at University of Louisville Hospital that did everything possible to try and save his life," the statement reads, in part. "This officer's dedication to his community, despite all risks, is to be commended and never forgotten.

In 2018, the department lost another seven-year veteran of the force, Officer Deidre Mengedoht, when she was hit on Christmas Eve by an impaired driver as she conducted a traffic stop on I-64 east underneath the Belvedere.

The driver, Roger Burdette, was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

"It's very difficult to find light in a time like this right now," Shields said.