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Hearing reviews Las Vegas police shooting that left man dead

Updated February 28, 2019 - 7:52 pm

A man fatally shot by Las Vegas police in April had hoped to become a police officer, a public review of his death revealed Thursday.

Junior Lopez, 22, had applied twice to join the Metropolitan Police Department but didn’t attend a required written exam one of those times, Sgt. Jerry MacDonald said at the hearing at the Clark County Government Center.

Lopez was shot by police about 4:45 a.m. April 6 on the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston and Nellis boulevards.

His 24-year-old fiancee, Amber Bustillos, who attended the hearing, said Lopez missed the exam because his boss at the time wouldn’t let him take the day off. He had rescheduled the exam for later in April, she said in a phone interview Thursday.

The public review of the case Thursday followed the Clark County district attorney’s office’s decision not to charge the officers who shot him.

Police laid out their case at the hearing and were questioned by a representative from the district attorney’s office and attorney Terrence Jackson, asking questions on behalf of Lopez’s family.

Lopez was pulled over April 6 after driving recklessly, reportedly driving about 60 mph in a 25 mph zone, MacDonald said.

Lopez’s toxicology indicated he had a blood alcohol content of 0.17 at the time of his death, twice the legal limit.

Had Lopez survived, he probably would have faced DUI or reckless driving charges, MacDonald responded when asked by Jackson about charges.

Body-worn camera footage from officers Francisco Rivera and Padilla Mills showed that Lopez got out of the car and went down to his knees and appeared to toss or drop the gun to the ground.

Police ordered him not to touch the gun, and both officers shot him as he reached toward and picked up the gun, MacDonald said. Mills fired again as Lopez, lying on the ground, rolled over in the direction of the gun lying near him. He died from his injuries.

The hearing officer presiding over the review, Carlos Blumberg, asked three questions submitted by the public, all from the same person. The officer was not required to ask submitted questions he deemed redundant, irrelevant or abusive to the hearing process.

Body-worn camera footage captured Lopez saying, “Shoot me,” but Blumberg asked MacDonald whether Lopez had instead said, “Don’t shoot me.”

“It’s very difficult to make out (in the video), but we made out that he had said, ‘Shoot me,’” MacDonald said.

Bustillos, who was sitting in the passenger seat at the time of the shooting, said the hearing only served to make the police “look good” for their actions. She said she wished police appeared more remorseful.

“We’re all human; you do act out of fear,” Bustillos said. “But just acknowledge that you did wrong. Just acknowledge that you took an innocent life.”

Lopez, lying on the ground after he had been shot, turned with an open palm and not as if he would be grabbing the gun again, she said.

Bustillos also said she told police in her initial interview that Lopez left the car only because he was told to do so. She said Lopez told them that he had a gun on his person and he had a permit to carry it.

Body-worn camera footage did not capture audio from the first 30 seconds of the traffic stop, but Rivera’s footage showed him asking, “Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car, man,” before Lopez dropping to his knees.

Lopez helped raise Bustillos’ two children, a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, and the pair had been together for nearly a year, she said. She remembers him as a man willing to put others’ needs ahead of his own.

“He was just a very, very good partner,” Bustillos said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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