About 700 people, most of them law enforcement personnel, attended a memorial service in Simi Valley on Wednesday for one of two undercover federal agents who were fatally wounded in a shoot-out with suspected heroin dealers last week in Pasadena.
Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Paul S. Seema is survived by his wife, Joy, and an 8-year-old son, Jason, who clutched a folded American flag presented to the family at the United Methodist Church. Seema, 51, died Saturday at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena after being shot in the head.
"What does one say at a time like this to express our sorrow," said DEA Administrator John Lawn during the quiet, hourlong service. "We know that death may take some men in this international war on drugs."
In the last 14 months, five DEA agents have died in the line of duty, including the two men last week, Lawn said.
Seema and two other undercover DEA agents were attempting to buy 2 pounds of heroin for $80,000 from Wen Huei Kow and his friends, authorities said. When all four later drove to a Pasadena home where the heroin was supposedly located, Kow, 26, allegedly pulled out a gun and demanded the $80,000 as an accomplice arrived.
Seema handed over the money, officials say, pleading with the men, "Please don't kill us." But the supposed dealers opened fire, killing Agent George M. Montoya, 34, critically wounding Seema, and shooting Agent Jose Martinez, 25, the driver of the vehicle, twice in his legs.
The Rev. Frank Witman lauded Seema as a man loved by those he worked with who would go out of his way to befriend those around him.
After the ceremony, an honor guard of 50 officers representing 26 police agencies from across the state saluted Seema and his family, as Martinez hobbled out of the church on crutches and was held in an emotional embrace by the eight pallbearers. Martinez fired at the gunmen, who were later caught in San Marino, as they tried to escape in a car.