Zephyrhills, FL – Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) Sergeant Lauren Lee was killed on Dec. 12, when a drunk driver crashed into her vehicle as she was driving home from work.
The 30-year-old correctional sergeant had just finished her shift at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution and was heading home on U.S. 301 when the fatal collision occurred at approximately 6:27 p.m., according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Megascapes Landscape and Maintenance employee Jonathan Aldea Valdes, 36, was driving the company’s pest control truck northbound on the same highway.
Valdes lost control of the large truck and swerved onto the right-hand shoulder before he suddenly overcorrected and turned into both oncoming lanes.
The truck slammed into Correctional Sgt. Lee’s Honda, demolishing the front half of her vehicle.
Correctional Sgt. Lee died of her injuries at the scene, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“This guy driving a company truck, almost during business hours, and he was drunk and hitting other cars along the way," the fallen correctional sergeant’s brother, Glenn Lee, told WFTS the day after his sister was killed. “He was in a moving killing machine.”
“She had no chance,” Lee said. “[Not] with the size of that truck.”
According to police, Valdes refused to submit to a blood draw, wouldn’t complete the field sobriety exercises, and became combative with officers during his arrest, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He was booked into the Pasco County jail on charges of DUI property damage and DUI manslaughter.
Prior to joining the Florida DOC in September of 2013, Correctional Sgt. Lee was well-known as an "outstanding basketball player" at Saint Leo University, her department told Blue Lives Matter on Tuesday night.
She graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2011 and then put her skills to work at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution.
"She quickly stood out due to her administrative skills, effectiveness in security and positive personality," the DOC told Blue Lives Matter. "She was one of the first line staff to receive her Correctional Behavior Health Certification from the American Correctional Association given to employees working with inpatient mental health inmates."
After being promoted to the rank of sergeant in June of 2018, Correctional Sgt. Lee served as a field training officer.
She had also recently been certified as an officer instructor and volunteered to teach advanced courses to train other staff members, the DOC noted.
"Correctional Sgt. Lauren Lee was a loved member of the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution team and will be greatly missed," the department said. "We ask that you keep her family and the staff of Zephyrhills in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
A fundraising campaign established to help Correctional Sgt. Lee’s family in the wake of their loss has raised over $4,800.
Correctional Sgt. Lee will be laid to rest on Saturday, according to her obituary.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Florida Department of Corrections Sergeant Lauren Lee, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.