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HOUSTON -- An off-duty officer with the University of Houston-Clear Lake Police Department was killed in a crash with a wrong-way driver on the Gulf Freeway, police said early Monday.

The UH-Clear Lake police chief identified the victim as Officer Joe Segovia. Segovia, a father of nine, had had been on the force for less than a year.

Houston TranStar reported the crash happened near the exit for Almeda Genoa Roadaround 2:41 a.m. The Houston Police Department said a Chrysler 300 was traveling in the wrong direction when it hit the officer's personal SUV head-on. Both drivers died at the scene.

Police said one person managed to avoid hitting the wrong-way driver, but the officer didn t have enough time to swerve out of the way.

There was a witness that was directly in front of the SUV traveling southbound, and he saw the oncoming vehicle and was able to get out of the way, said HPD Sgt. Steven Sorge. According to his statement, the small SUV that had the police officer in it was about 50 feet behind him and just didn t have time to maneuver.

All southbound lanes of the freeway were shut down for about four hours for the cleanup and investigation.

Officer Segovia was assigned to the patrol division and quickly integrated into the community during his short time with the department. He was regarded as an exemplary officer and will be greatly missed, the police department said in a written statement.

University police said Segovia was a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army. He had just celebrated his wedding anniversary over the weekend, and his youngest child is 16 years old.

The UH-Clear Lake police chief said Segovia was a star in the making.

The chief said Segovia was in uniform at the time of his death, but because he was not on duty, he does not qualify for federal, state, or local in-the-line-of-duty benefits.

Donations are now being collected for the family: Joe Segovia Fund / UH Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Blvd, Box 323, Houston TX 77058-1098.

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