Cathedral City Police say 29-year-old Jermaine Gibson died when he lost control of his squad car and hit a palm tree Friday night.
It happened as he was chasing a parolee and another suspect in a stolen car. Authorities say Gibson's car caught fire, and he died at the scene.
The suspects kept going but also lost control and crashed into a palm tree about a block away. They were both hospitalized with major injuries.
Friends of Officer Gibson say he was a Marine Corps veteran who earned a purple heart for serving in the Iraq War.
He leaves behind a wife and four week old son.
"Fine officer, guy loves his job and we're heartbroken," Lt. Chuck Robinson said.
"Officer Gibson was as I said before one of gentle giants, he loved this job, he loved what he was doing, he loved being out protecting the community," Mayor Kathleen De Rosa said.
Authorities are reviewing the evidence and may pursue first degree murder charges against the suspects.