Accident Killed O.C. Public Servant Known for Helping Others

Times Staff Writer

When Adriana Guevara heard her husband, Melvin, had been killed while trying to help two motorists in a flipped-over car on the Riverside Freeway, she wasn't totally surprised.

"It was just like him to stop to help," she said of Sunday's accident. "He was always trying to help people."

The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. when Guevara, an off-duty officer with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, was struck by another vehicle near the Carmenita Road exit. He and a passenger from the overturned Toyota 4Runner were killed when the driver of a Toyota Camry plowed into the first vehicle.

The California Highway Patrol identified the passenger as Genaro Garcia Pelayo, 22, of Orange County, and the driver of the Camry that hit them as Min-Chi Chang, 28, of Placentia.

Guevara's wife and brothers said Monday it wasn't the first time the 24-year-old Anaheim resident and father of three had put himself in harm's way to aid others.

In his previous job as an county animal control officer, "he almost drowned to save a dog in the Santa Ana River," brother Robin Guevara said.

He said helping people was second nature to his brother: "Regardless of whether he was a cop or a garbage man, he would have stopped to help" the motorists in the overturned car.

The California Highway Patrol was continuing to investigate the crash.

Guevara joined the Sheriff's Department in May as a special officer, one rank below deputy, working security at John Wayne Airport and in a courthouse.

He had dreamed of a career in law enforcement since childhood, his brother said. His ultimate goal was to get into an anti-gang police unit.

A graduate of Santiago High School, Guevara grew up in Santa Ana. As a teen, he worked for his father's catering business. He became an animal control officer after meeting his future wife, who was already working for the agency.

After graduating from a police academy, he found a position with the Sheriff's Department.

Relatives described him as devoted to his job, his wife and their three children.

"He was very dedicated to his family and job," his brother Carlos said. "He was really happy being a police officer ... and he paid the ultimate price."

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