A candlelight vigil for Chris Teagardin was held at the Granada Hills Little League baseball field, where he worked as a coach. He and his best friend, Tim Schultz, were killed on Jan. 31 in a hit-and-run crash in Panorama City. (Photo by Maria Luisa Torres)

About 100 friends, family members and community members — including many current and former little leaguers — held an emotional candlelight vigil for Chris Teagardin at the Granada Hills Little League baseball field Feb. 8. “Coach Chris” and his best friend Tim Schultz, were tragically killed when a driver attempting to evade police during a car chase Jan. 31 slammed into Teagardin’s parked car. Police said they had just given the order for the police aerial unit to take over the chase.  

During a news conference, Police Chief Michael Moore acknowledged that there had been some questions about whether the high speed police chase had contributed to the tragedy and he said that an investigation would determine whether policy was followed. 

Chris Teagardin

With a large, baseball-shaped flower arrangement set up next to a photo of a smiling Teagardin on a table near home plate, several friends and loved ones took turns sharing touching tributes to Coach Chris. Mourners of all ages stood together throughout the baseball diamond and field, holding lit candles while alternately chuckling at funny anecdotes or quietly shedding tears.

Little league parent Melissa Heredia attended the vigil with her children.

“Coach Chris was definitely dedicated to the team and to the players; he was very motivational,” she told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol. “We’d stay after hours for his pep talks. He definitely motivated my son and had a large impact on him; that’s why we’re here today.”

Sharing a common refrain expressed by several others in attendance, Heredia said Teagardin had a gift for communicating with kids at their level.

“He really connected and communicated with the kids, and I think they’re at that age … when they need that type of inspiration, to have that guidance,” she said. “Granada Hills is a really tight-knit community and I think it’s very nice to see [people] get together to support his family. … It takes a big person to be able to volunteer their time like he did.”

Chris Teagardin cared for his mother who is legally blind. She attended the community vigil with other family members who said the loss was devastating.

Jay Lepito, a long-time friend and fellow little league coach who addressed the crowd, shared similar thoughts with the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol, describing Teagardin’s death as a “tremendous loss” to both the league and the local community. He said Teagardin volunteered his time “for the love of the game” and the kids themselves.

“He was tough but fair, and he loved the kids. … Some of these kids are from broken homes and Coach Chris and this league provided a safe place for children to come,” said Lepito. “The parents respected Chris, which is good … and the kids always had a voice.”

Simply put, “Coach Chris was really nice,” said 9-year-old Lucas Lee of Teagardin, who had been his coach during the previous baseball season.

“Coach Chris was very nice,” agreed Lucas’ mother, Jennifer Lee. “He dedicated so much time and energy to coaching and he didn’t even have a kid playing anymore … he was putting in six to eight hours a week on our kids. He always had time for them.

“He was just a really good guy,” she said, choking back tears. “He’s going to be missed.”

Teagardin, 47, and childhood friend Tim Schultz, 49, were parked after running errands.  They were going to pick up one of their cars and have tacos.   Oscar De La Cruz, who had been spotted by police driving a stolen Toyota Tacoma truck, was driving recklessly to evade officers during a high-speed pursuit when he crashed into the sedan occupied by Teagardin and Schultz in Panorama City.

According to the LAPD, officers had transitioned into “tracking mode,” dropping back from the pursuit shortly before the crash. De La Cruz, who is scheduled to be in court on Feb. 16, was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, one count of fleeing a pursuing peace officer causing death, one count of felony hit-and-run and other charges.

Media outlets have reported that De La Cruz had been wanted on a felony warrant prior to the deadly crash and was being held without bail. He has an extensive criminal history, including a burglary conviction in 2021, a carjacking conviction in 2014 and more.

“The circumstances in this case are particularly difficult because it seems like the police made some poor decisions in not calling off the chase sooner before the accident happened,” said Lee. “It seems like the press and society in general want to see these car chases and it’s disturbing and so upsetting.”

She also noted that various local geographic pockets, such as Rinaldi Street, seem to draw car racing enthusiasts on a regular basis. Lee described it as “a problem all around.”

In addition to being a beloved little league coach, Teagardin owned a shop in Granada Hills. He is survived by his 18-year-old son, Collin, his wife, Yvonne, and his mother, who is legally blind, who he cared for. Schultz is survived by his 16-year-old daughter and his fiancé. Teagardin and Schultz had been best friends for more than 30 years.

A Go Fund Me page for Teagardin can be found here.

A Go Fund Me page for Schultz can be found here.