'Phia wore the uniform proudly': Fresno police chief speaks at service of officer killed in wrong-way crash

A three-day service honoring the life of a Fresno Police Officer killed when he was hit by a wrong-way driver has begun.

Phia Vang was a 26-year veteran of the Fresno Police Department. He was one of the first members of the Hmong community to become a Fresno Police Officer.

He was killed in a head-on collision with a wayward driver two weeks ago. The remembrance of his life began on Friday.

Several services to be held to honor Fresno Police Officer Phia Vang

The hearse carrying Vang's body arrived at the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit hall, and was ceremoniously brought inside.

Hundreds of family, friends and fellow officers heard a tribute from Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

"Phia wore the uniform proudly, he was proud to serve as a Fresno Police Officer, and he knew what the uniform stood for - honor, respect and authority," Dyer said.

Vang was killed on February 4, driving home from work when he was hit by an out-of-control driver going the wrong way on Highway 180. He had hit six other vehicles before colliding head-on with Vang's truck.

Both men were killed. Vang is survived by a wife and four children, three sons and a daughter.

"He was a great mentor, he loved the community, and just, a regular person. He lived out his life the way he wanted to," Corey Vang, his son, said.

At the ceremony, Vang was honored through the power of music, but in writing, his impact on those he worked with was reflected on a white board.

One message said, "May you rest in peace. I have had the pleasure of working with one of the coolest Hmong officers in Fresno."

Corey says his mom is doing her best to stay strong for him and his three siblings.

"Seeing my mom helps us siblings kind of gather our strength as one and feed each other back and forth," he said.

Vang was born in Laos in 1970. He came to Fresno with the first wave of southeast Asian war refugees as a child. Former city council member Blong Xiong was a friend. They were among those who found their way in a new land.

"It's difficult being the first generation because there really was no guidance in terms of how to grow up in this country. Our parents only knew to say, basically - 'go to school, get a good job, whatever that is'... not knowing how to be that guide, mentor, growing up in this country."

Dyer says Vang was an outstanding officer, who had to overcome many cultural obstacles.

"Phia did a lot to bridge the gap between the Hmong Community and the Fresno police department. We will always be thankful for that and that is the legacy he leaves behind."

As per Hmong custom, the funeral observance will go on for three days. Everyone is invited to come by and pay their respects.
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