Watch heartfelt tributes to slain Oakland police officer Tuan Le at public memorial

Hundreds of police officers stood solemnly in the rain outside of a church in Castro Valley Wednesday morning as the body of slain Oakland police officer Tuan Le arrived for a public memorial service.

Officer Le was fatally shot in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, one week ago. Officer Le and his partner were working undercover and responded to a marijuana growing facility at Embarcadero and 4th Avenue near Jack London Square in Oakland that was burglarized multiple times that morning. Le was struck in the back of the head by gunfire while driving an unmarked truck and crashed into two parked cars. He was taken to an area hospital and later died from his injuries.   

The death of officer Le has affected many across the Bay Area, but it’s had a particularly significant impact on the local AAPI community, many of whom knew him personally and commended him for his commitment and service to Oakland.

A solemn procession

Police vehicles formed a procession ahead of a memorial service for officer Le, departing the Oakland Police Administration building at 8 a.m. 

Thousands fill Castro Valley church for public memorial to pay tribute to OPD officer Tuan Le 03:00

Row upon row of police officers in formal uniforms wearing white gloves and black mourning ribbons across the badge stood at attention in the pouring rain awaiting Le’s arrival. The procession arrived at 3 Crosses Church in Castro Valley shortly after 10:15 a.m., passing beneath a large flag draped between two ladder trucks outside the church. 

Le was remembered as a devoted husband, an important member of Oakland’s Asian-American community and a bridge between the Vietnamese community and the Oakland Police Department. Le was born in Vietnam and moved to Oakland over two decades ago. He graduated from the police academy in 2020. Le was honored Friday with a Buddhist ceremony and vigil held in Oakland. The Le family is also planning a private funeral this week.

Bagpipes filled the crowded 3,000-seat auditorium as officer Le’s casket was ceremoniously carried in for the memorial service. Family members filled the front row at the church for the emotional remembrance of the fallen hero.

Honor guard enters church to open public funeral of officer Tuan Le 04:08

“It is with profound sadness that we gather here this day to honor the life and the service of our fallen brother, Tuan. We’ve come together from many places and from many backgrounds,” said Oakland police chaplain Father Jayson Landeza during his opening remarks. “Whether a family member or a friend, a fellow Oakland police officer, an officer from another agency, an elected official or a concerned citizen, we’ve all come here to pay our respects for the service that Tuan has given us. We find comfort and consolation in the fact that so many of us have gathered here to remember and to give thanks for Tuan’s life.”

Love for community

State Attorney General Rob Bonta was the first public official to speak at the funeral. He admitted that while he had never met officer Le, his impact on the greater community was clear.

Officer Tuan Le memorial: California Attorney General Rob Bonta remarks 04:27

“I didn’t have the privilege or the opportunity to personally know officer Le. But I didn’t have to in order to know that he loved this city and that this city loved him,” said Bonta. “In the wake of his passing, so many of you have shared moving condolences and heartfelt memories about the fallen hero. His smile and his kind and generous spirit. About his passion for Oakland and his dedication to serving the community he loved so much.”

“It was in his DNA.”

Interim OPD Chief Darren Allison offered his condolences to Le’s wife and mother before talking about what drove him to enter law enforcement.

“Early on, he demonstrated a desire to serve and protect. It was in his DNA. You see, Tuan’s grandfather had been a police officer in Vietnam and Tuan vowed to become a police officer just like him,” said Allison. “And in 2019, he applied to the Oakland Police Department and entered the 183rd Oakland Police Recruit Academy. It was a dream come true for Tuan. He completed the academy on February 21st, 2020. And although his grandfather had passed away prior to his graduation, Tuan knew he had made him proud.”

Allison also highlighted Le’s achievements as a community resource officer in West Oakland, where he was well-liked and trusted in the neighborhood.

“Thank you, brother, for our friendship and your service,” Allison said. “Thank you for all the times you answered the call. I know this was not how it was supposed to end, but you can rest easy. You have given us hope. You’ve given us love. You’ve held the line. You are a true hero. Just know we have the watch from here.”

Le was also recently awarded the Grubensky Award for helping a fellow officer who had suffered a heart attack on duty. The award was named after John William Grubensky, who died rescuing a family in the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm.  

A generous soul

Officer Le’s cousin Jennifer Ky offered a heartfelt remembrance, recalling a moment when his aunt gave him an apple when he was a young boy shortly before he departed Vietnam to live in the U.S. Instead of eating the apple himself, he saved it and asked that it be cut up so he could share it with his cousins before he parted ways with them.

Officer Tuan Le memorial: Cousin Jennifer Ky remarks 06:20

“This was the kind of person Tuan was at seven years old and 36 years old,” his cousin said through tears. “From childhood to now, we will always remember Tuan for his willingness to share his time, making the effort and bringing us together.” 

His brother-in-law Kenny Fung echoed those sentiments when it came to the care, affection and protectiveness officer Le showed for fellow family members.

“Even though I am his big brother, he always watched over me and my family, like the bigger brother, walking us to our cars making sure we got in safely,” remembered Fung.

Family members also said Le loved his two dogs, was always in a pair of Crocs if he wasn’t working, and loved being outside hiking or mountain biking. But they said, more than anything, he loved his wife Sarah. They were high school sweethearts who met as students at Oakland High and got married in 2018.

“We want to thank Sarah for being his person for all these years, for accepting him and loving him as much as we do, and for bringing out the best in him,” said Ky.

At the end of the service, Le’s wife Sarah and his mother were presented with flags and badges, a traditional tribute to remember the life of an officer taken too soon.