'Ray of Sunshine': LASD Mourns Detective Who Died After Helping Pedestrian in Valley Village

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continues to mourn one of its own Monday after a crash in Valley Village killed an off-duty deputy moments after she helped out a pedestrian in need.

Detective Amber Joy Leist, 41, was fatally struck by a vehicle Sunday morning at Riverside Drive and Whitsett Avenue.

Surveillance video shows Leist’s car stopped just before a crosswalk as she helped up a pedestrian who had fallen down while crossing the street.

She walked with the pedestrian, described by officials as a senior citizen, and that person’s companion. When they reached the sidewalk, Leist ran back to her car. She was struck by an oncoming vehicle that sent her hurtling into the air, footage shows.

The traffic light had just turned green, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

Leist was taken to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. The driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with officials, who are treating the case as an accident.

Edgar Abou, who works nearby, said she saw Leist help out the woman, who was with her partner at the time.

Abou told KTLA that the couple regularly went to the store where he worked, and that he was able to speak to the man later Sunday.

“He didn’t realize that the lady had passed away, so he started crying,” Abou said.

Leist is a 12-year veteran who was assigned to the West Hollywood station, Villanueva said. She left behind two sons, a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old who’s currently serving in the U.S. Navy, according to authorities.

Law enforcement officers escorted Leist’s body on Sunday evening in a procession from Cedars-Sinai Hospital to the coroner’s office.  Villanueva described her as an outstanding detective.

On Monday, mourners left flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial at the West Hollywood station. One note said, “You died to help somebody live.”

Capt. Ed Ramirez at the West Hollywood station described Leist as “a ray of sunshine.”

“Bouncing around the station, [she had a] wonderful personality, so full of life and vibrancy,” Ramirez told KTLA. “In my heart of hearts, I know that this world lost a little bit of its luster without Amber.”

Funeral arrangements are pending, Leist’s family said. But a community vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Whitsett Avenue.

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