LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A man is facing vehicular manslaughter, assault and DUI charges for allegedly ramming a sheriff's car during a traffic stop and leading deputies on a pursuit that ended with a fiery crash in the Fairfax District that killed an innocent man who was on his way home from work.
Alex Lopez, 28, pleaded not guilty Thursday 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.
On Thursday, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies were pursuing Lopez who had assaulted a deputy during a routine traffic stop.
Deputies chased the driver to the intersection of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, where at approximately 10:30 p.m., he crashed into another car, the impact of which sent the second vehicle slamming into the side of a Citibank branch.
Los Angeles Fire Department crews attempted to pull the innocent driver, identified as 37-year-old Jeeves Tangonan, from his vehicle following the crash, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Family members said he was a chef at a West Hollywood hotel and was driving home from work when he was killed.
"He treated my sister perfect, he was the perfect husband, the perfect son, the perfect brother-in-law to me," his brother-in-law Marlon Chavez told CBSLA Wednesday.
Deputies had initially attempted to pull Lopez over for a traffic stop, after suspecting he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, a pursuit ensued when the suspect allegedly assaulted a deputy.
Lopez, who was driving a gray Chevrolet Malibu, had been "lane straddling and driving without headlights on during time of darkness," according to a sheriff's department statement.
"The person stopped and the deputy got out of his vehicle, made contact with the driver," Villanueva said. "Then the driver struck the (deputy's) vehicle and drove away and fled the scene. That's where the pursuit initiated. And sadly when the suspect fled ... later on down the road there was a fatal traffic (collision).
"Our condolences to the victim's family, my heart goes out to them, because this person appeared to be under the influence," Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. "There was definitely impairment, so we're going through our investigative process."
The deputy who was involved in the initial traffic stop was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, as was the suspect, the sheriff's department reported.
Lopez is jailed in lieu of $205,000 bail while awaiting his next court appearance on April 29.
Tangonan was a chef at a West Hollywood hotel and was returning home from work when the crash happened.
"I do want justice to be served for this man, to pay for what he did," Chavez said. "I've never seen my sister and my family go through so much pain."
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