Several law enforcement agencies in Southern California joined the loved ones of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective who died last week for a Hollywood memorial service in her honor Saturday.
Deputy Amber Joy Leist was helping a senior citizen cross the street near Riverside Drive and Whitsett Avenue in Valley Village last Sunday when she was fatally struck by a passing vehicle. She got out of her car to help the pedestrian after seeing her fall to the ground while walking with someone else.
Leist, 41, was off-duty at the time.
During Saturday’s service, held inside Mosaic Church in Hollywood, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said she died while helping someone who could’ve been hurt or even killed if she wasn’t there.
“It didn’t matter to her who they were,” Villanueva said. “All she saw was just two people who were in need. Without being asked for help, and without hesitation, Amber jumped into action.”
Leist, 41, was a 12-year veteran of the department who worked on patrol and as a school resource officer before becoming a detective.
The driver who struck her was going through a light that had just turned green. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with authorities, according to sheriff’s officials.
In the days since her death, Leist has been remembered by family members as a kind person with a vibrant laugh and steadfast devotion to her work.
“She was just a hero,” her 17-year-old son, Daniel Laney, previously told KTLA. “She was always caring. She would always come home and talk about the victims, and how she felt so sorry for them. I’d listen.”
Leist also has a 20-year-old son currently serving in the U.S. Navy. Her sisters and parents spoke at Saturday’s memorial service, where they shared fond memories, sometimes tearfully recalling Leist’s warm personality.
Her father, Daniel Leist, said she held a unique sense of empathy for those around her: “She chose to look at people through a different set of eyes.” And he described her as a rock for those around her.
“When Amber was around us, she was she was our fireplace,” Leist said. “If you were cold, if you were hurting, if you felt alone — you could always warm yourself by her fireplace.”