For the second time in less than two months the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department suffered the loss of one of its finest in the line of duty.
On the morning of May 13, Deputy Sheriff Bruce K. Lee responded to a disturbing the peace call in the City of La Quinta, a city policed under contract with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Upon arrival at the scene Deputy Lee was confronted by a mentally disturbed twenty-four year old Kevin Diablo, who was known to have had prior difficulties with the law. In attempting to question and reason with Diablo, a physical encounter ensued, in which Diablo was able to secure Deputy Lee’s police baton. Now, armed with the baton, Diablo inflicted several severe blows to the head and neck of Deputy Lee, resulting in massive trauma. Lee was transported to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, then on to the trauma unit at the Desert Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
A back-up deputy, responding to Lee’s call for assistance arrived at the scene and observed Lee’s motionless body lying on the ground. The back-up deputy was immediately confronted by Kevin Diablo still brandishing the police baton in a menacing manner. When Diablo ignored a command to drop the baton and continued to advance toward the deputy in a threatening manner, the deputy fired his service weapon, mortally wounding Diablo. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The funeral and memorial services for Deputy Lee were attended by more than two thousand peace officers representing a multitude of jurisdictions from throughout the state, virtually every member of his own Department, in addition to numerous dignitaries representing cities, counties and the State of California. Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the State’s Chief Law Enforcement officer was once again in attendance, speaking and offering condolences to the Lee family on behalf of the people of California.
Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle expressed his sentiments, saying “Bruce was not only a fine deputy sheriff but he was one of our family. His law enforcement family and the community he served will miss him greatly.
Deputy Lee will be missed but not forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow Patricia and all his family”.
Sheriff Doyle’s remarks were echoed by Lee’s supervisor, Captain John Horton, who recalled Lee’s infectious smile and enthusiasm for the job, noting that Lee bypassed promotions because he enjoyed being a deputy. “Bruce became a perfect model for every new deputy”, Horton added in his praise of Lee.
Ron Henderson, Lee’s close friend delivered the eulogy and thanked Patsy, Lee’s wife “for sharing Bruce with everyone”.
Ironically, May 19, the day of Lee’s funeral was his birthday. He would have been 46 years old.
Bruce Lee’s attraction to law enforcement was sparked in 1968, when as an 11-year-old, he watched an Inglewood police officer arrest a man for stealing a car and attempting to steal gasoline from Lee’s father’s service station. Years later, Lee was partnered with that same Inglewood policeman’s son, Michael Manning.
Deputy Bruce K. Lee was a 22-year veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, having joined the Department on September 2, 1980.
Deputy Lee is survived by his wife of nine years, Patricia, his mother, father, and a sister.
Those who may wish to make a donation to the Lee family may do so by sending them to the following address:
C/0 Riverside Sheriff’s Association
11-99 Relief Foundation
6215 River Crest Drive, Suite A
Riverside, CA 92507