COMPTON — Funeral services are still pending for a 47-year-old sheriff’s sergeant who died after his patrol car crashed as he was having a heart attack, the coroner’s office has reported.
The crash occurred about 5:20 a.m. Oct. 24 at Myrrh Street and Willowbrook Avenue. Sgt. Al Lopez, a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, died at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, according to the department.
An autopsy determined that Lopez had suffered a heart attack, and his death was listed as the result of natural causes, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.
Lopez, who had transferred to the Compton Sheriff’s Station about a year ago, is survived by a wife and two adult children.
“It is a tremendous loss to all of us,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell told reporters gathered outside the hospital. “It looks like it may have been a medical emergency.”
Lopez had gotten into his patrol car to assist other deputies who were involved in a pursuit of a stolen car, McDonnell said.
However, the pursuit was called off about the time Lopez was pulling out of the parking lot of the Compton Station, McDonnell said.
A short time later, about 100 yards away, the patrol car crashed into a wrought-iron fence, McDonnell said. The chase had been called off for safety reasons, in part because of the rainy weather, the sheriff said.
The loss was another blow for a department still reeling from the Oct. 5 on-duty killing of Lancaster Station Sgt. Steve Owen.
“Mourning the loss of one fallen brother is hard enough,” said Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association President Brian Moriguchi. “But two in the span of three weeks seems unbearable.
“This is when the department and this union truly feels like a close-knit family. We’ll grieve together but we’ll also stand firmly for those left behind,” he said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lopez family, including his wife and children, along with many colleagues and friends on the department.”
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs also issued a statement mourning Lopez’s death.
“All of our ALADS members will be grieving the loss with Sergeant Lopez’s family members, friends, and fellow deputies. We would ask everyone to keep the men and women in law enforcement in your thoughts and prayers.”
Gov. Jerry Brown also offered condolences to Lopez’s wife, daughter and son.
“Sgt. Lopez dedicated more than half of his life to serving his community with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and on behalf of all Californians, Anne and I extend our deepest condolences.”
A memorial for Lopez was held at the Compton Sheriff’s Station Oct. 24.