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Federal Way family copes after fatal crash

Emmanuel Franco grew up in Federal Way. He attended Saghalie Middle School and graduated from Decatur High School in 2007. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Emmanuel Franco grew up in Federal Way. He attended Saghalie Middle School and graduated from Decatur High School in 2007.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Emmanuel G. Franco's life was looking brighter than ever when it was abruptly cut short Dec. 29.

Franco, 21, was less than five minutes away from his Federal Way home when his Acura was struck by a Chevrolet Suburban driven by Lagrant D. Pegram of Auburn. Pegram allegedly was driving drunk and ran a red light before ramming into Franco's vehicle that morning. The incident took place at 2:20 a.m.

Franco, who was due at work by 5 a.m., was returning home after having spent the night at a friend's house, helping the friend with a resume.

On Wednesday, Franco's family — father, George; mother, Yoly; and brother Julian, 18 — remembered him as a young man who was working hard to make his family proud, a man who was eager to lend a helping hand, a guy who cherished his car and enthusiastically collected athletic shoes, a prankster, a Catholic, a proud Filipino, a sharp dresser, a boxing fan and most of all, a loving son and inspiring older brother.

"He was really selfless," Yoly Franco said.

Emmanuel Franco grew up in Federal Way. He attended Saghalie Middle School and graduated from Decatur High School in 2007.

He was known by his friends as Emm and by his family as Nino. He was soft-spoken and liked to help people. In school, Franco was mischievous, leaving a lasting impression on his teachers, prompting them to ask his younger brother if he was related to Emmanuel.

“He was a prankster in class and stuff,” Julian Franco said.

One of Emmanuel’s prized possessions was his car, the Acura he was driving on the night of his death. He bought the car with his own money. He spent much of his spare time and own cash fixing it up, Julian Franco said.

“He loved his car,” he said. “He loved working on it.”

Emmanuel was also fond of athletic shoes. He went out of his way to collect them. As a Horizon Air ground service representative with flight perks, Franco once flew to Alaska in pursuit of a pair of Nike Air Jordan shoes. He got there only to be told the shoes he sought were not available in Alaska, but could be found in Federal Way. He immediately phoned his family requesting they purchase the shoes, George Franco said.

In high school, Emmanuel Franco worked hard enough to graduate, but he did not immediately attend college. George Franco, on Wednesday, became momentarily emotional, taking a few seconds of silence to shed tears as he recalled a conversation he had with his son. Emmanuel had expressed to his father that he did not feel George was proud of him because he had not gone to college. Emmanuel promised his dad he would pursue higher education when the timing was right.

Emmanuel followed through on his promise, funding his own way through school. He graduated from Pima Medical Institute as a medical assistant this past October. While continuing to work for Horizon Air, he began searching for work in his career field of choice.

In the Francos’ home, it’s as if Emmanuel is there. His family speaks as though he has just stepped out of the room, at times using the present tense when referring to him. And, in a sense, Emmanuel is present. His ashes are at rest in the living room in a mahogany colored box, his name engraved on the front in gold. Large bouquets of flowers, candles and photos of Emmanuel surround the box. Items representing the family’s Catholic faith are scattered throughout the room.

When asked if they are mad at Emmanuel’s alleged killer, there are mixed feelings. The family does not know much about Pegram. They know his name, but have not seen his face, as they have decided not to attend Pegram’s court hearings. George Franco said he is not angry.

“I don’t have any anger at this time,” he said. “That anger kind of drowned already.”

Brother Julian bounces between feelings of sadness and anger. He’s upset at reports that Pegram was drunk when he allegedly collided with Emmanuel’s car. He’s upset that Pegram has previous DUI convictions.

“It’s disappointing he was out in society,” Julian Franco said. “The DUI laws in Washington are really disappointing.”

But he doesn’t wish to dwell on disdain for Pegram.

“It’s to the point where he’s really not worth my emotions,” he said.

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