Keith Lawrence was in the driver’s seat, a standout basketball player with a new job as a USC patrol officer, shot and slumped behind the wheel. Monica Quan was next to him, also a basketball star, now a much-loved basketball coach, also shot dead.
They were college sweethearts, newly engaged. They had recently moved into the Irvine condo complex where they were found Sunday night on the top level of a parking garage.
Police said they believe, based on the evidence, that the killings were neither a murder-suicide nor a robbery gone bad. They declined to release many details, but said the couple did not appear to have been robbed and that Lawrence – licensed to carry a firearm as part of his job – did not have a gun.
“There’s no obvious motive,” said Lt. Julia Engen of the Irvine Police Department.
Coaches, friends and others who knew Lawrence, 27, and Quan, 28, remembered them as stars off the court as much as on. A middle-school teacher, for example, said Quan made her think about the type of parent she would have to become to raise a child like her. A college coach said Lawrence was that rare person who really did get along with everyone.
“He was the nicest person you could ever meet, humble, he never gave off any negative vibes,” said Lawrence’s longtime friend Edrian Ferrer. They spoke late last week, and Ferrer said Lawrence told him he had proposed to Quan a few days earlier. “I think he was in a good place,” Ferrer said.
Lawrence and Quan met at Concordia University in Irvine, where they both played guard for the school’s basketball teams. She was 5-foot-5 but was among the team leaders for three-point field goals. He hit one of the most dramatic shots in recent school history, a buzzer-beating three-pointer in triple overtime that helped send Concordia to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics finals.
That was in March 2007, just a few days after he and Quan first friended each other on Facebook. They documented their relationship in the years that followed with online photographs: posing at Disneyland, clowning around in front of a Christmas tree. One picture showed Lawrence down on one knee in front of Quan, but the caption explained that he was just resting his legs.
Quan graduated in 2007 with a degree in exercise sports science, then got her master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration. Her dream was basketball: “I’ve had one goal: to be on a WNBA team,” she said in her 2002 yearbook from Walnut High in Walnut. “I’ve always dreamed of playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.”
Instead, she became an assistant coach, first at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, then at Cal State Fullerton – where, for the past two years, she has been “Coach Mo.” The head coach, Marcia Foster, broke down as she remembered Quan during a brief news conference on Monday. “A really bright light was put out way too soon,” she said.
“As a second-year assistant, she was someone I called on to tell me the truth,” Foster said. “I love that about her. I loved her work ethic. I loved her passion for life.”
Lawrence graduated from Concordia with a degree in business administration. But even in his playing days, he had talked about becoming a police officer. He attended the Ventura County Sheriff’s Academy and posed for a photograph on the day he graduated, proud in his uniform, with Quan by his side.
Her father had a long career with the Los Angeles Police Department and made history as the department’s first Chinese American captain. He later served briefly as chief of police at Cal Poly Pomona.
USC’s Office of Public Safety hired Lawrence in August as an armed officer and assigned him to patrol, said Capt. David Carlisle. The department’s chief, John Thomas, sent a memo to his staff Monday with the news of Lawrence’s death:
“During his brief tenure of service here at USC, Officer Lawrence proved to be an honorable, compassionate and professional member of our department and the Trojan family,” he wrote. “We are a better department and the USC Campus Community is a safer place as a result of his service.”
Irvine police were responding to a report of someone slumped over in a car when they arrived shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday at a parking structure for the Avenue One condominium complex. It was Lawrence’s car.
Police said Lawrence and Quan appear to have been shot where they were found, in the car in the open-air top level of the structure. It was obvious, police said, that they had been dead for some time. It did not appear that they had been robbed.
No one has been arrested.
Hundreds of people had shared their thoughts and condolences on Facebook memorial pages by Monday afternoon. “I didn’t know Keith,” one wrote, “but I knew Monica … and if she fell in love with this guy, he had to have been an amazing person. My heart goes out to everyone who knew these amazing people.”
Register staff writers Doug Irving, Lou Ponsi, Salvador Hernandez, Tim Burt and Alejandra Molina contributed to this report.
By THOMAS MARTINEZ, CLAUDIA KOERNER and KIMBERLY PIERCEALL/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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