USC remembers slain safety officer as committed public servant
Some at USC want the public to know that Keith Lawrence, whose shooting death has been attributed to an ex-cop, was more than just a loving partner to his fiancee -- he was a young law enforcement officer with a bright future.
"In many articles, he's just referred to as just the fiance. We'd like to see him get some more recognition than that," said Capt. David Carlisle of the University of Southern California's Department of Public Safety.
Lawrence, 27, and his girlfriend, Monica Quan, had recently become engaged. They were found shot to death on Feb. 3 in their car in the parking structure of their condominium complex in Irvine.
Authorities suspect they were targeted by Christopher Jordan Dorner, a 33-year-old former Los Angeles Police Department officer who was fired in 2009 and who authorities say went on a recent violent rampage, killing the couple and a Riverside police officer. He has eluded capture.
Much of the media attention focused on Quan, especially because her father, Randal Quan, represented Dorner at his termination hearing. Authorities believe Dorner likely targeted Monica Quan in an act of revenge.
Quan and Lawrence shared a love of basketball -- she was an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton -- and USC's public safety Chief John Thomas said Lawrence would jump at the opportunity to talk about her.
Lawrence joined the university's campus safety department in August after Quan's father called Thomas, an old LAPD acquaintance, to recommend him.
"I've known Randy Quan for about 25 years. We were both on LAPD. Called me about a year ago and says 'J.T., I've got this great possible candidate who you ought to take a look at if you get a chance. His name is Keith Lawrence and he's dating my daughter. I think he's an outstanding young man,'" Thomas said.
Thomas spoke with Lawrence a few times, was impressed and encouraged him to apply.
"Once he got here, he really, in a short time, left an impact on our department," Thomas said, characterizing Lawrence's demeanor as "quiet confidence."
Once, when Lawrence was still a trainee, Thomas recalled, he was out with his training officer, and they were confronted with a suspect wanted on a felony, no-bail warrant who "didn't want to go to jail and he wanted to fight."
And the suspect was big -- over six feet tall and weighing 220 pounds.
"Here Keith was a trainee, and Keith was able to connect with the guy, get the guy handcuffed, get him arrested," Thomas said. "The arrestee shared with his training officer ... that he really respected Officer Lawrence and was surprised ... he was a trainee."
"I was really looking forward to seeing Keith develop," Thomas said. "It's been hard. Keith wasn't with our department for a long time, relatively speaking, but at the same time he was so well-liked."
Thomas said a memorial is set up in front of the public safety department on campus and that it will stay there until he is buried. He also said he made sure counseling services were available to any of those in the department who wanted it.
Lawrence "was a member of the law-enforcement community. He wasn't on duty when he was killed," Thomas said, "but this was a man who made a conscious decision to serve other people."
-- Ari Bloomekatz
Photo: Memorial display for Keith Lawrence at USC. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times