MILWAUKEE -- The death of off-duty Milwaukee Police Officer Kou Her hit Milwaukee's Hmong community especially hard. Her, 27, was a first-generation Hmong-American, and he lost his life on his way home from work.
Witnesses said the driver of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo blew a red light at a high rate of speed, traveling through the intersection and striking Her's vehicle, which was headed southbound on N. 60th Street. Police records showed Dante James, 34, was arrested near the scene of the crash less than an hour after the crash happened -- for homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.
Her worked at MPD's District 4, which works closest with the Hmong population in Milwaukee. He not only served the community, but he also served as a role model for all immigrant families -- someone living the American dream.
Milwaukee has the third largest population of people of Hmong descent --nearly 16,000 -- behind Fresno, California and the Twin Cities.
"We're a very tight-knit community, and we kind of monitor what happens within all of our local communities," said May Yer Thao, executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce.
When tragedy struck the local Hmong community early Tuesday morning, Hmong-Americans everywhere felt the loss.
"It's unbelievable and unacceptable. It's a waste of an innocent life. With him being a police officer, he was a beacon of hope for everyone to say, 'We could achieve these dreams,'" said Thao.
Thao said Her embodied the American dream. His parents are refugees from the Vietnam War, and he was the first of his eight brothers and sisters to graduate from college.
"And being a young son who had not yet settled, had not married, had not had a family, that is significant, especially to Hmong parents," said Thao.
Following the tragedy, Her's grieving family turned their attention to planning a funeral that would undoubtedly capture the attention of people all over the world.
"He wasn't just a Hmong community member, but he belonged to the Greater Milwaukee community," said Thao.
Her's funeral was set to be a four-day event, starting Friday, June 28 at the Good Hope Center, with a burial service on July 1.