Update 12:30 p.m.: Some 3,500 men and women in uniform packed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles Thursday to remember LAPD Officer Nicholas Lee.
The 40-year-old veteran is the first officer to die in the line of duty since 2008.
Lee’s brother, Danny Lee, spoke on behalf of the family. He recalled bickering with his big brother and playing basketball when they were younger.
"Hours spent in the back yard. Dribbling, shoving…" Danny Lee said. "And how I will miss it all."
His speech was more than a glossy tribute. He expressed how tough his brother could be because he wanted the best.
“He taught me courage. That’s it’s OK to be confronted with new challenges,” Lee said. “It’s what you do about it that counts.”
Even as he seemed to fight away tears through the speech, he ended his tribute with a call to joyfully remember a life taken too soon.
“Let's stand up and celebrate so loud that he can hear us all,” he said. Men and women in uniform stood up and cheered.
Officer Lee was killed after the patrol car he was in collided with a commercial truck at an intersection in Beverly Hills last Friday. He was accompanied by a rookie officer, who was treated and released from the hospital. The CHP is still investigating the cause of the accident.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was among the speakers paying tribute to Nicholas Lee, who came to Los Angeles as a boy with his family from Korea.
“He became a police officer six years after the city was torn apart by riots that touched his family,” Garcetti said. “And instead of running away, he ran to service.”
Nicholas Lee received dozens of commendations during his 16 years with the department. His last assignment was as a training officer for rookie officers.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck got emotional as he spoke at the service, appearing that he was holding back tears. Seated in the front row was Nicholas Lee’s wife Cathy and his two daughters, 13-year-old Jalen and 6-year-old Kendall.
“I cannot replace the sacrifice you have made. I cannot replace your husband or your father,” Beck told the family. “All I can do is promise you that you have 13,000 uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters who will never leave you alone. Ever.”
The chief also talked about a personal connection he now has with Lee’s young partner, who was in the car with him and on the force for just three months.
“You and I have something in common,” Beck told the officer identified only as Stephanie. “We both lost partners in traffic collisions. Mine died in my arms.”
Korean consul general Yeon Sung Shin said that Lee was himself a "1.5 generation Korean American."
"He moved down here to the United States with his father with the age of 13 — very young. And he was educated and he got the job of police officer after his education. And his family, including his father and mother, is well known for their service to the Korean community as well as the L.A. city itself — such an established and well-educated family they are,” the consul general said.
California Governor Jerry Brown and State Attorney General Kamala Harris were also in attendance, along with several L.A. City Council members and other elected officials.
5:00 a.m.: An LAPD officer's special role in the funeral of Nicholas Lee
Fellow LAPD Officer Rosalind Curry has a special role during the services for her fallen comrade, Officer Nicholas Lee: Curry is the LAPD’s funeral coordinator. She will be picking up Lee's family and escorting them to the memorial service at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Thursday.
“I am there as their personal assistant,” said Curry, a 20-year veteran.
Lee was killed after the patrol car he was in collided with a commercial truck at an intersection in Beverly Hills last Friday. He was accompanied by a rookie officer, who was treated and released from the hospital. The CHP is still investigating the cause of the accident.
Curry said she will be at the family’s side to serve them in any way they need, including escorting a family member out of the service if it becomes too emotional.
“That’s what I do,” Curry said. “I look at it this way: the officers spent years helping the citizens in the streets of Los Angeles. And then I help the officers' family.”
Her work does not end after the funeral. She can spend up to one year or more serving the family. It includes referring them to support groups for the widows and children of fallen officers.
“Our role doesn’t stop at the funeral,” she said. “We continue helping because often the family has no idea how to access services and benefits.”
At many LAPD services, her role also includes singing. She often performs the national anthem and is also part of the LAPD color guard, which carries the American flag. If the family requests it, she will sing at the memorial for fallen officers.
“I started singing in the (police) academy for my own graduation ceremony and I have been singing ever since,” Curry said. “I always wanted to be a singer and a police officer. Only God knew I would be doing both at the same time.”
The LA Police Federal Credit Union has opened an account where the public can deposit donations to help Lee’s family. He is survived by a wife and two young daughters.