Innocent Fil-Am driver killed during fiery sheriff’s pursuit in LA

Jeeves Tangonan is pictured with his wife of eight years, Stephanie. Tangonan, 37, was the casualty in a sheriff’s pursuit in LA’s Fairfax District on Tuesday night, March 2. Contributed photo

AN innocent Filipino American driver was killed on Tuesday night, March 2 when a Los Angeles County sheriff’s pursuit ended in a fiery crash in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District.

Jeeves Tangonan, a chef at the West Hollywood EDITION, was driving home from work when another driver crashed into his vehicle at the intersection of Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, across the street from The Grove and the Original Farmers Market.

The impact of the crash caused Tangonan’s vehicle, a blue Toyota RAV4, to jump onto the sidewalk and come to a stop when it was wedged between a tree and the wall of the Citibank at the corner of the intersection.

The 37-year-old, who is originally from the Philippines, was pronounced dead at the scene. He leaves behind his wife of eight years, Stephanie Tangonan.

“She’s still heartbroken and devastated. It’s the worst pain we’ve ever felt because it’s a family member of ours. I don’t wish this for anyone to go through,” Tangonan’s brother-in-law, Marlon Chavez, told the Asian Journal.

The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Alex Lopez, was being chased by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies after he assaulted a deputy during a routine traffic stop. He was also reportedly under the influence of alcohol. The short pursuit ended at approximately 10:30 p.m. when the suspect crashed into Tangonan’s car.

The suspect’s vehicle, a gray Chevrolet Malibu, immediately caught on fire upon impact. Lopez was taken into custody after Los Angeles Fire Department crew members rescued him from the flames.

It took five minutes for firefighters to pull Tangonan out of the vehicle through the passenger side and again through the roof, a Fox 11 Los Angeles report said.

Lopez pleaded not guilty on Thursday, March 4 to one count each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, assault on a peace officer and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s vehicle and two counts of DUI causing injury, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The suspect is in jail in lieu of a $205,000 bail and will have another court appearance on April 29.

Tangonan’s family is now seeking justice and hopes that more drivers aren’t at risk during police pursuits.

“I think a lot of these chase pursuits need to stop, especially in the streets, because a lot of innocent drivers like my brother-in-law have died or pedestrians have gotten run over,” Chavez said. “[Lopez] needs to pay for what he did because if he’s out in four or five years, he can go back out there and do the same thing again.”

Tangonan is remembered for his love of food and hospitality and for being a loving husband.

“His love of food was out of this world…He had a love for cooking meals for every single human being that came into the door of that hotel,” Chavez said. “He was very inspiring, motivated, and happy. I never saw him disrespect my sister and he treated her perfectly as a husband should.”

According to his Linkedin page, Tangonan graduated from De La Salle University with a bachelor of science degree in hotel and management. He migrated to the United States in his early 20s and worked as a cook at the Four Seasons Hotel for several years.

Tangonan’s parents still live in the Philippines and he would send them money every month, Chavez said.

Chavez set up a GoFundMe page to help his sister with funeral expenses.

“Any donations will be greatly appreciated… The most priceless thing is if everybody could keep [Jeeves] and my family in their prayers,” he said.

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