April 9, 2012

"The Real Bruce Lee" - Leroy B. Vaughn

May 13, 2003 was a regular work day for me. I woke up early, went into the kitchen to make tea and have a bowl of cereal before I left for work.

I turned on the television to listen to what passes for news in Los Angeles.

The news readers were doing the usual, talking about events that had occurred in southern California in the last few hours.

I was sort of listening to the news reader when I heard, "Deputy killed in Indio." It had been 22 years since I had worked in Indio. I didn't think there was much of a chance that I would know the officer that the news reader was talking about.

I sat in my chair and waited for the commercial to end. The news came back on and I looked at a picture of a deputy who I had trained when he was a rookie and I was a field training officer.

Bruce Lee was a good trainee and had visited me in Los Angeles in 1981, after I had screwed up by leaving the sheriff's office.

I had introduced him to my new captain, who thought that I was kidding when I said, "Skipper, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Bruce Lee."

The captain thought that he was going along with the joke. He replied, "Bruce Lee, I've heard of you before."

The news reader went on to say that Bruce had answered a disturbing the peace call in La Quinta, near Indio. A suspect named Kevin Diablo (real name) confronted Bruce at the scene and took Bruce's baton away from him, inflicting several blows to Bruce's head and neck, causing severe trauma that killed him.

The 23 year old suspect was known to have mental problems, but the news did not say if anyone told the sheriff's dispatcher that fact when they called the station.

A back-up deputy arrived to find Bruce's motionless body on the ground and was confronted by Mr. Diablo, who was yielding Bruce's baton.

The deputy fired his service weapon and killed the deranged man.

It was a sad day for me as I drove to work, listening to the radio. Trying to find any information about Bruce Lee's murder.

I would later find out that Bruce Lee had recently transferred back to Indio to work in patrol after spending time as a traffic accident investigator in a contract city not far from Indio.

I was unable to attend Bruce's funeral. He was buried on his 46th birthday.


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, true and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.

Image courtesy of dcubilla.


  1. So that thin blue line that stands between us and savagery is less one hero. I'm sorry for your loss,Officer Vaughn. The world will miss your friend.

  2. Only 46 years young, this was a tough story to read. Vaughn writes with the sort of slate-faced tone I would expect from someone who has seen a lot. Can't imagine what his other days were like. Thanks for your submission, this is as stark a piece as "Fingerprints" has ever received.