Man killed following police encounter in Port Arthur had child on the way; family reacts to death

Published 11:42 am Friday, February 24, 2023

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It was Jovanny Vanegas who got his younger brother Israel into the ironworkers profession.

The two, who were practically inseparable while growing up, worked together in North Dakota for approximately a year. They would go out to eat, have a few drinks and talk to the family when they had a chance.

They would visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and sit back and enjoy the views.

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“Even our grocery days, we’d go to Walmart to get groceries, we always just had a blast, always laughing. We’d do dumb stuff to one another,” Israel Vanegas said.

This is but one memory Israel has of his brother Jovanny, 28, who died Thursday after an altercation with Port Arthur Police Department officers.

Israel Vanegas, 25, said the family is in shock at Jovanny’s death. As for the cause of death, Israel said he doesn’t know.

“I was at work when it happened,” Israel Vanegas said. “The last thing I wanted to find out when I got off work was that my brother passed away.”

Jovanny Vanegas was encouraged to work in the ironworkers profession by his brother, Israel. (Photo courtesy of family)

According to Port Arthur police, a family disturbance response led to the fatal encounter at approximately 4:49 a.m. Thursday.

Police were dispatched to the 800 block of San Jacinto Avenue, where they encountered a 28-year-old male.

A struggle ensued during the encounter, according to police, and officers were able to gain control of the man.

Police did not release the man’s name under instruction of the Texas Rangers who are investigating the incident.

During the altercation the man showed signs of medical distress and EMS personnel were immediately summoned, a news release said. He was brought to The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, where he died.

The Texas Rangers are leading the investigation, and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s has been notified.

The Texas Rangers, who are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, were asked by PAPD to investigate the use-of-force incident, according to information from DPS.

Once the investigation is completed it will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office.

Justice of the Peace Joseph Guillory II ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

News of Jovanny’s death hit the family hard.

When asked how they are handling this, Israel said it’s something he can’t explain.

“It’s like a punch to the gut. Something you never expect to happen,” Israel Vanegas said. “We are a religious family. We try to stay close to our faith.”

There are the happy memories left behind that the family can cherish. Israel recalled a trip where the whole family went to San Antonio for the weekend. They went to the River Walk and out to eat — “just the family enjoying themselves.”

From there they traveled to nearby Austin, where they visited a park at Lake Travis.

Jovanny Vanegas leaves behind an unborn daughter. Israel said the child’s mother is not taking the death of Jovanny well.

Israel described his older brother as a hard-working humble person who always looked out for others more than himself, a thoughtful person and very family oriented.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with funeral arrangements. It is listed under the name “Jovanny Israel Vanegas.”