A young sergeant from the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) was killed when a drunk driver crashed into her vehicle as she was driving home from work.
The crash happened at about 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12, when 30-year-old Lauren Lee had just finished her shift at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution and was heading home on U.S. 301.
Troopers said Jonathan Aldea Valdes, a 36-year-old Megascapes Landscape and Maintenance employee, who was driving north in the company’s truck, lost control of the truck and drove onto the east shoulder, then overcorrected into the southbound lanes, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
There, the truck slammed into the front of Lee’s Honda, causing her death from her injuries at the scene, troopers said.
“This guy driving a company truck, almost during business hours, and he was drunk and hitting other cars along the way,” her brother, Glenn Lee told ABC Action News. “He was in a moving killing machine.”
“She had no chance,” Lee said. “Even if she avoided, with the size of that truck.”
Valdes refused all field sobriety tests and blood draw requests and became combative with officers during his arrest, police said.
He was later transported to the Pasco County jail on charges of DUI property damage and DUI manslaughter.
Prior to joining the Florida DOC in September 2013, Lee was well-known as an “outstanding basketball player” at Saint Leo University, Blue Lives Matter reported.
Lee had graduated in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice and then brought her talents to the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution. After being promoted to the rank of sergeant in June 2018, she served as a field training officer.
“She quickly stood out due to her administrative skills, effectiveness in security, and positive personality,” the DOC said. “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.”
She had also recently been certified as an officer instructor and volunteered to teach advanced courses to train other staff members, the DOC noted.
American professional wrestler Aerial Hull, better known as ‘Big Swole’ when in the ring, tweeted when she learned about her death.
On Thursday I lost my friend to a drunk driver. Please don’t drink and drive…uber, Lyft, taxi, sleep, anything else but getting behind the wheel. Also if you see something report it, please…you can save a life.
Rest Easy Lauren Lee, until we meet again boo! 🤎
— Big Swole 💪🏾 (@SwoleWorld) 14 December 2019
A GoFundMe page set up to help her family in the wake of their loss.
Her funeral service will start at 12:30 this coming Saturday, Dec. 21st.
Rest In Peace to my former teammate Lauren Lee #20 💛💚 pic.twitter.com/VELwfLNP5Q
— Jamarra Robinson (@COACHROBINSONJ) 13 December 2019