The LA community mourns the loss of two store employees who were killed trying to stop crime at their stores

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) — On a somber night Friday in downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District, a group transcending race, age and religion held a special prayer vigil to pierce the darkness of what this community has endured.

It’s been a week since 56-year-old Du Young Lee, also known as Tommy Lee, was fatally stabbed near the wig shop he ran for nearly two decades near Olympic Boulevard and Wall Street.

Witnesses said two 17-year-olds tried to steal a wig from the store, but Lee chased and confronted them, resulting in the stabbing.

It wasn’t the first time he’d felt compelled to intervene, and his last wasn’t to end like this.

ALSO READ | Wig shop owner killed trying to stop suspected teenage robberies in Fashion District, LAPD says

“We can’t let the memory of Tommy fade away,” said a speaker at Friday night’s vigil. “We must stay strong because look what Mr. Lee has done for us.”

Wizeman Kangavari, a business owner in the Fashion District, said he would say Lee whenever someone took something to just “let it go”.

“[Lee] said no. If they steal from me, they will steal from you and the next and the next,” Kangavari recalled.

In a similar incident, Steven Reyes, an employee at a Highland Park liquor store, was hit in the head with a scooter and later died after trying to stop a group of teenagers from stealing beer, police said.

“We’re just trying to stick together and stay strong for one another because this is such a terrifying and unexpected time,” said the victim’s daughter, Nelle Reyes.

READ MORE | A liquor store clerk in Highland Park dies after being attacked with a scooter while trying to stop a robbery

Both Reyes and Lee raised their families while chasing the American dream. Lee moved to the US from South Korea, while Reyes came from the Philippines. The way they died is evidence of how they lived.

“He’s such a hard worker, he was always on time, he tried to put in overtime for every company he works for and he always tried to do the right thing in his own way when he could,” Nelle said Reyes

Lee’s daughter was unwilling to speak Friday night, but instead listened to the outpouring of support. Her father was the only relative she had in the United States

A GoFundMe because Lee has since raised more than $80,000 and is called “My father gave his life to protect what was his.”

A GoFundMe page was also started to help the Reyes family.

“I began to feel her pain when she expressed that he was striving, working so hard to build a better world for her,” community activist Hyepin Im said.

Los Angeles Police Department continues to search for the four suspects in the Reyes case.

Meanwhile, the two 17-year-olds in Lee’s case have been arrested. Lee’s family wants them to be charged as adults.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. The LA community mourns the loss of two store employees who were killed trying to stop crime at their stores

Laura Coffey

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