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Couple killed by Dorner remembered for selflessness and love of basketball

Family, friends and law enforcement officials attend memorial services for Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence at Irvine's Concordia University, where they met and fell in love.

February 24, 2013|By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
  • A procession carrying the bodies of Keith Lawrence and Monica Quan, a couple killed by former LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner on Feb. 3, leaves Concordia University after a memorial service Sunday.
A procession carrying the bodies of Keith Lawrence and Monica Quan, a couple… (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)

On the same Concordia University campus where they met and fell in love, friends and family of Monica Quan and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, remembered the young couple Sunday for their humility, selflessness and love of basketball.

Helped to the podium by family, Lawrence's younger brother, Kris, whispered, "I can do this, I can do this" as he struggled against tears to pay tribute to the protective older brother who he said always did the right thing and comforted him as a child when he was scared of the dark.

"His patience grew so large because of me," Lawrence said at the memorial service for the couple.

Marcia Foster, head coach of Cal State Fullerton's women's basketball team, said Quan, 28, was an assistant who inspired her players to be more competitive and better people.

"Breathing in and out is hard right now," Foster said. "I've been through a lot in my life but nothing has shaken me as much as this."

The couple were the first victims of former Los Angeles police Officer Christopher Dorner, whose violent rampage also resulted in the shooting deaths of a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy. Dorner later took his own life.

Police said Quan was targeted because Dorner apparently believed that her father, Randal Quan, a former captain with the Los Angeles Police Department, did not fairly represent Dorner at a hearing over his firing in 2009.

In a Facebook post that authorities have described as his manifesto, Dorner warned the elder Quan that "suppressing the truth will lead to deadly consequences for you and your family."

Monica Quan and Lawrence, 27, were recently engaged and had yet to pick a date for their wedding when they were found shot to death in their car Feb. 3 in the parking structure of their Irvine condominium complex.

On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined more than 1,000 family, friends and law enforcement officers at the memorial service in the school's gymnasium. An overflow room was added to accommodate the crowd.

"This is where they fell in love," said Ken Amman, head coach of the school's men's basketball team where Lawrence was a player. "Basketball revealed the people they were."

In Lawrence's case, it revealed a player who stood up for the little guy and always remained cool-headed.

"Have you ever met anyone more poised inside a stressful situation?" Amman asked.

Chris Merriweather, Lawrence's close friend, said that "whenever I was around Keith, I wanted to act better and make better decisions."

Merriweather remembered Lawrence as an aggressive point guard who often overpowered his opponents on the court, yet he always picked the weakest players for a pickup game. "He never left anyone behind," Merriweather said.

As a public safety officer at USC, Lawrence impressed his superiors with his professionalism.

"Keith showed an awareness for the essence of what this job is about," said John Thomas, chief of USC's Police Department, who noted that Lawrence was less interested in putting people in jail and more inclined to focus on safety education with an ability to speak with people from all walks of life.

But conversations with Lawrence, around the department, on radio calls or in conversations with his superiors, often turned to Quan, Thomas joked.

Quan was a scrappy basketball player who was only 5 feet 3 but overpowered opponents with her three-point shot and a karate swipe that disarmed anyone trying to take the ball away.

"She was tough, she was determined, and she was hard-nosed," said Tuonisia Turner, her former coach at Cal State Long Beach.

As a child, Quan was always trying to best her brother and would shoot the ball late into the night, her father recalled.

"She was competitive when she was 4 years old," Randal Quan said.

When she graduated from college, she rose quickly in the coaching ranks at Cal Lutheran University and Cal State Fullerton.

"In 10 minutes, I knew I had found a star," said Roy Dow, head coach of the women's basketball team at Cal Lutheran.

But despite Quan and Lawrence's successes, speakers said they remained focused on the needs of others.

"Humility was just part of these kids' character," said Sandy Jo MacArthur, a family friend and an LAPD assistant chief. "Our future is good because of people like Keith and Monica."

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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