Latino Caucus calls for CPD reform, questions 2005 police shooting of Emmanuel Lopez

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
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The Chicago Latino Caucus questions whether excessive force was used by Chicago police in the 2005 police shooting of Emmanuel Lopez.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Latino Caucus questions whether excessive force was used by Chicago police in the 2005 police shooting of Emmanuel Lopez, which involved an officer now charged with first-degree murder in another case.

"Excessive and unreasonable force" is not just an issue in the black communities, but in all communities, especially the Latino community, Chicago Alderman George Cardenas, chairman of the Chicago Latino Caucus, said.

Lopez, 23, was undocumented. He worked as a janitor to send money back to his family in Mexico, Cardenas said.

Chicago police said Lopez was drunk when he purposely ran over Chicago Police Officer Brian Rovano after a traffic altercation in 2005. Several police officers opened fire in a shooting investigators said was justified.

"At that time, he continued to spin his tires. The officers, in fear for the officer's life under the car, fired, killing him," Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline said in September 2005.

Lopez was unarmed. His seatbelt was fastened.

"When it was all said and done, Lopez had 16 bullets in him. Fourteen in the back," Cardenas said. Lopez, who was unarmed, was killed instantly, Cardenas said.

"Officer Rovano claimed that he emptied his gun from under the front of the car. One of the bullets was at a downward angle into Emanuel Lopez's back. That is by far the most damning evidence in the case," Terry Ekl, attorney for the Lopez estate, said.

The questions, according to Ekl: How does an officer who is pinned under the car fire a shot that hits the driver at a downgrade angle? How is it that an officer caught by a spinning car wheel shows no evidence of that on his uniform pants?

The police narrative of the Lopez shooting was signed by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is now charged with first-degree murder in the Laquan McDonald murder.

Van Dyke was the so-called "paper car." The report carries his name, but he never questioned anyone involved about what happened. In a deposition, Van Dyke is asked why and responds, "No. No. It's out of my pay grade. I don't question other officers."

"The conspiracy to cover this up began with Jason Van Dyke," Ekl said.

"It's hard for me to understand why this was not investigated," Cardenas said. He called the case "pretty clear and damning."

A lawsuit filed by the Lopez family is set for trial in February. The city said Officer Van Dyke's role in the Lopez investigation has been vastly overstated and that police acted appropriately because Lopez tried to use his car as a weapon to escape. The State's Attorney's Office declined afterward to press charges against the officers and the city said it intends to defend them in the civil suit because "We believe the evidence refutes the plaintiff's claims."

While the Latino Caucus is not calling for the Lopez case to be reopened, they said they want the US Department Of Justice probe to look at use of police force in all cases.

"We need some answers on that," Cardenas said. On Tuesday, they said they were focusing on Chicago police reform.

"Our point is this has to be color blind when it comes to justice. Whether it's black, Hispanic, Chinese, Muslim, and so on. This city cannot move forward unless we move forward together," Cardenas said.