LOS ANGELES (WWJ/AP) – Los Angeles police say Anton Yelchin, an actor best known for playing Chekov in the new “Star Trek” films, was killed by his own SUV as it rolled backward down his driveway.

Officer Jenny Hosier says the Jeep Grand Cherokee pinned Yelchin against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence early Sunday. He had gotten out of the vehicle momentarily, but police didn’t say why he was behind it when it started rolling.

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Investigators say it appears that Yelchin had not properly put the 2015 SUV in park — and that Jeep, equipped with an e-shift transmission, is part of an ongoing federal probe.

WWJ’s Auto Beat Reporter Jeff Gilbert says many car makers are now installing electronic shift levers in their vehicles and there have been concerns that these are counter-intuitive. Fiat-Chrysler is the only company to actually have a recall because there have been dozens of injuries and hundreds of accidents when customers thought their vehicles were in park and they weren’t — Fiat-Chrysler no longer makes vehicles with this shift lever.

Gilbert says Fiat-Chrysler ordered the recall months ago and has been warning customers about the possible problem – while they no longer make this type of transmission but there are a number of confusing transmissions from a number of car companies.

Hosier says Yelchin was on his way to meet friends for a rehearsal. When he didn’t show up, the group came to his home and found him dead.

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His biggest role has been in the rebooted “Star Trek” films as navigator Chekov. The third film in the series, “Star Trek Beyond,” comes out in July.

Yelchin began acting as a child, taking small roles in independent films and various television shows, such as “ER,” ”The Practice,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” His breakout big-screen role came opposite Anthony Hopkins in 2001’s “Hearts in Atlantis.”

Yelchin, an only child, was born in Russia. His parents were professional figure skaters who moved the family to the United States when Yelchin was a baby. He briefly flirted with skating lessons, too, before discovering that he wasn’t very skilled on the ice. That led him to acting class.

“I loved the improvisation part of it the most, because it was a lot like just playing around with stuff. There was something about it that I just felt completely comfortable doing and happy doing,” Yelchin told The Associated Press in 2011 while promoting the romantic drama “Like Crazy.” He starred opposite Felicity Jones.

 

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