Korean American LAPD Officer Killed in Crash

Colleagues of Nicholas Choung Lee will remember the recently deceased veteran Los Angeles police officer for his lasting legacy.

Lee died in a severe car crash on March 7 when a big rig truck traveling downhill in Beverly Hills struck his patrol car. The 16-year veteran officer of the Los Angeles Police Department was training a rookie officer who was sitting in the passenger seat when the accident occurred. The driver of the truck — which was hauling a dumpster and a Bobcat — lost control and struck Lee’s car, possibly due to mechanical failure, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.

“A man of greatness and selflessness,” Beck said, via Twitter. “Nick was a great cop. May he rest in peace.”


The patrol car was almost demolished in the crash. Both the truck driver and the injured officer, only identified by her first name Stephanie, were hospitalized. The officer, who was only three months out of the police academy, was released on March 9. The driver remains hospitalized in serious condition.

David Legaspi, a sergeant at LAPD who had a 10-year friendship with the the 40-year-old officer, said while it’s tragic that Lee’s life came to an abrupt end, years of contributions he made as the trainer of rookie LAPD officers will continue to pay dividends for years to come.

“Nick’s death is a great loss to the community and the department,” Legaspi said. “He has been a watchful eye for the community. But because he was also a training officer, his legacy will go on.”

An avid basketball fan, Lee was also actively engaged in the Korean American community in L.A. Many remembered Lee from playing basketball together after meeting him through community organizations such as the Korean Youth and Community Center.


“Nick was a very outgoing and very humorous person,” Legaspi added. “When we heard the news at the department, we were all shocked. We were in disbelief.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who worked with Lee several times in the past, also sent his condolences.

“This tragedy reminds us of the selflessness of our LAPD officers who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us,” said Garcetti, who ordered to lower the city flags to honor Lee, in a statement. “Nick embodied everything that LAPD’s about: Courage, commitment, community. When being with his family, it was just heartbreaking today.”

Just a week before his death, Lee appeared in a LAPD YouTube video wishing a happy birthday to a 7-year-old Rhode Island boy with leukemia.

Lee is survived by his wife and daughters, ages 6 and 10. A fund has been set up to assist the family at the LAPD Credit Union website. Donations can also sent to this address:

Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union/ATTN: Nicholas Lee/Blue Ribbon Fund, P.O. Box 10188, Van Nuys, CA, 91410.

A public memorial service will be held in Koreatown on Wednesday night at St. Basil Catholic Church. The funeral will take place in Los Angeles on March 13 at 9 a.m. at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 555 West Temple Street.