Bus Driver Arrested in Death of Hun Joon 'Paul' Lee, Autistic Student Left on Bus
Armando Ramirez, 37, was arrested in the death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old autistic student who was left on the bus Ramirez operated on a hot day last September in Whittier, California, reported ABC 7 News. Police confirmed the substitute driver was booked at the Whittier Police jail for dependent abuse, with bail set at $50,000.
Lee’s mother Eun Ha Lee became concerned when her son wasn’t home from the Sierra Vista Adult School on time on Sept. 12, 2015, reported KTLA. She called the police and rushed to the campus, and though staffers searching for Lee initially labeled him as “special needs,” his mother clarified that her son was autistic, nonverbal, had the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, and would not have been able to yell out for help. Lee was found in the bus’ aisle and pronounced dead at 4:33 p.m., according to a police report.
After six months of investigation and the release of a discovery document in which the company admitted the conduct of its driver was a cause of death, detectives determined there was enough evidence to arrest Ramirez. Ramirez’s arraignment is expected to be held on Friday in Bellflower Court, according to the Whittier Daily News.
Lee’s family also has a pending lawsuit against the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative and the Whittier School District. PTC stated it plans to install a system on its busses requiring drivers to swipe a device to confirm the vehicle has been cleared of students.
“We are pleased that the Whittier Police Department has taken the first step to hold bus driver Armando Ramirez accountable for his role in the death of Paul Lee,” Brian Panish, the Lee family’s attorney, said in a statement to ABC 7. “We will continue to pursue justice for the Lee family and remain diligent in our fight to change bus safety policies and procedures in order to avoid a senseless tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
“My boy is a very, very precious boy,” Eun Ha Lee said in an interview with KTLA last September. “I don’t know other people, how they think about my son, but my son is perfect to me. I feel like, we are nothing. They killed my son. Technically, they killed my son.”