Hero Down: Hayward PD Reserve Sgt. Stephen Lau Dies From Coronavirus
Birmingham, AL – Hayward Police Department (HPD) Reserve Sergeant Stephen Quen Wong Lau died from respiratory failure on March 31 after contracting COVID-19, according to his family.
The 54-year-old sergeant, who lived and worked in California, was on a work trip in Birmingham when he fell ill, according to his obituary.
“Because of the restrictions on travel from COVID-19 and the lockdown of the hospital from COVID-19, Stephen’s family was not able to travel to attend to him when he became ill,” the tribute read.
Sgt. Lau passed away from respiratory failure due to the novel coronavirus on March 31.
The son of Chinese immigrants, Sgt. Lau spent nearly his entire life living and working in the San Francisco Bay area, according to his obituary.
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science from the University of California at San Diego, Sgt. Lau became a well-known expert in his field.
“He made a name for himself working on Artificial Intelligence research at a time when AI was mostly unknown except in science fiction movies,” his obituary read.
He traveled around the world working as a cybersecurity analyst, to include briefing the Pentagon on risks and strategies in the 1990s.
In 1999, at the age of 33, Sgt. Lau joined HPD as a reserve officer in addition to his AI and cybersecurity jobs.
“Stephen volunteered hundreds of hours annually and participated in numerous special events, patrol details, and department activities,” according to his obituary. “He served with incredible distinction, a positive spirit and gave his entire heart in the service of the Hayward community.”
Sgt. Lau was one of seven HPD officers who were dispatched to Santa Rosa as part of a mutual aid effort during the deadly 2017 fires, Berkeley Lab said in a press release.
Sgt. Lau was simultaneously serving as the lab’s policy director at the time.
“The level of destruction and devastation up there is just indescribable,” Sgt. Lau explained. “I’ve never seen anything like the intensity of those fires — you’re looking up at a four-story-tall pine tree and the flames are rising two stories above that, with trees nearby literally exploding into flames.”
He described the scene he and his fellow officers experienced during one of their harrowing, 3 a.m. emergency evacuations.
“As we were rushing across town…what we saw was just surreal,” the veteran officer said in the press release. “The sky was a strange orange color and you could see flames shooting up above trees and over the hills.”
They drove through the blaze and began evacuating Santa Rosa’s Oakmont and Kenwood neighborhoods as the flames closed in on them.
Many elderly residents needed help getting out of their homes, so the officers traveled door-to-door on foot to get everyone to safety.
“It was so hard because when you’re banging on someone’s door, you’re not sure if they’re still asleep or already evacuated,” he recalled. “But you have blocks and blocks of homes to get to, so you can’t wait too long.”
When the fire suddenly changed course at one point, emergency dispatchers warned Sgt. Lau and his team that they needed to flee the area immediately.
“We had to drop what we were doing and evacuate with the residents,” he said in the press release. “After we left, we looked back and could just see the flames growing bigger and brighter.”
Sgt. Lau said that working as a law enforcement officer and helping people in need was one of his lifetime goals.
“I never really thought I could be a police officer when I was younger,” he said in the release. “There weren’t many Asian officers, and definitely not many gay officers, and there still aren’t. The fact that I was Asian and gay basically made me discard the idea.”
But when one of his friends told him about his experience working as a reserve officer, he decided to give it a shot.
He spent the next 21 years serving the Hayward community as a volunteer HPD reserve officer.
“What I find most rewarding about being a reserve police officer is helping people and solving complex problems that sometimes have no correct answer,” Sgt. Lau said in the wake of the Santa Rosa fires. “Being a police officer has taught me how to listen and see things from others’ points of views.”
His dedication and hard work did not go unrecognized.
“Stephen inspired so many with his fierce energy, infectious smile, and always positive attitude that he was honored as a Hayward Officer of the Year,” according to his obituary.
He as also posthumously promoted to the rank of reserve sergeant.
“He will remain in the hearts and minds of the hundreds he showered with his love, friendship, and incredible spirit,” his obituary read.
Sgt. Lau leaves behind his lifelong partner, Michael, as well as his parents, sisters, niece, nephews, and cousins.
“Stephen lived his life to the fullest, pursued his hobbies intensely, and cared for his friends and family similarly. He had a sharp witty sarcastic humor, peppered with chuckles and smirks,” his obituary read. “He was a well-loved professional nerd---always interested, always learning. Our lives are richer for having him in it. His life made a difference and he will be remembered by those whose lives he touched so meaningfully. We love him and miss him deeply.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hayward Police Department Reserve Sergeant Stephen Quen Wong Lau, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.