108th Pct. loses well-liked Officer Lee

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He was 38 and is survived by two children and his wife, Linda, 109th Community Affairs Officer Ki Soo Kim said.

Kim said Lee collapsed in the precinct June 2, and was kept alive on life support for a few days before dying last week.

"He's the first Korean American to die on the job," Kim said. The New York Police Department currently has 80 Korean-American cops out of 40,000 total officers.

The 108th Precinct, which covers Woodside and Sunnyside, did not return calls requesting comment.

A wake was held in Astoria Sunday and the funeral was Monday. Lee was an officer for 14 years, Kim said.

Kim became acquainted with Lee in 1993, when the two of them worked on a undercover mission in a Korean section of Midtown Manhattan. In addition to gathering evidence about a Korean gang that was operating in Midtown during the mission, the pair became friends.

"He was a really nice fellow, he was really well liked," Kim said. "He was really hardworking."

Lee's family owned a deli business on the Lower East Side in Manhattan where Lee grew up after coming to the United States from Korea as a child. Kim said Lee's older brother was murdered in the late 1990s, which left Lee heavily involved with his family.

"(Lee's brother) was headed toward the job and some local kids robbed him and it was a botched robbery," Kim said. After Lee's brother was killed, the officer, who was also the father of a 2-year-old and 8-year-old, helped his mother out as well.

"He was very involved with raising his two kids," Kim said. "He always spoke of them highly. He carried his pictures (of his kids)."

Kim said hundreds of officers attended the funeral in Pinelawn, L.I. Monday.

"It was very difficult," Kim said. "I was very saddened. It touched me deeply."

Having met Lee's wife and family, Kim said he felt personally connected to the officer.

"You think deeply and these kids are going to grow up without a father," Kim said.

At the wake and funeral, Kim said there were pictures of Lee with his wife and children at the beach.

"We have to take a deep breath and be there for the family," he said.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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