Blood In, Blood Out

Danny Ray Lopez couldnít outrun his gang life or the police. Will his brother follow in his footsteps?

Reeves panicked. "He's got me," he thought.

But his partner, Peters, began shooting. The car swerved, only this time it headed for Smith, who fired into the windshield. It swerved again, heading toward where Sloan and Albershardt were standing. Sloan tried to shoot, but at first he couldn't get the safety on his gun to release.

Albershardt dove for cover as the car came at him. He didn't understand: The driver must have seen that he had a clear path to escape the cul-de-sac but instead had swerved at the officers. Sloan and Albershardt joined in firing at the car.

Gloria Lopez has already lost one son and worries she may lose another.
Gloria Lopez has already lost one son and worries she may lose another.
Gloria Lopez has already lost one son and worries she may lose another.
David Rehor
Gloria Lopez has already lost one son and worries she may lose another.

At last the bullet-riddled car rammed into a parked van and stopped. The officers approached cautiously, but there was no need for their guns. They had fired almost fifty rounds at the car. Inside, Danny Ray Lopez III had been struck by five bullets, including one to his head. On the floor was a loaded 9 mm handgun.

Danny was transported to St. Anthony's Hospital and was on the operating table when his family got the word.

Barbara had been at her cousin's home in Thornton when they'd heard a helicopter pass overhead. "There's the ghetto bird watching to see if I'll lead them to Danny," she'd joked. It wasn't funny, but she was trying desperately to keep up her spirits. They abandoned her completely after she arrived home and got a telephone call from Danaia. Danny's sister was hysterical. "They got him," she cried. "They shot my brother."

Barbara dropped Mariah off at a relative's home, and soon she, Danaia and Gloria Lopez arrived at St. Anthony's. Detective Slater, who'd been talking to the family about getting the boys to give up, approached and said it didn't look good.

"Why did you have to shoot him?" Barbara wailed.

Danny shot first and held a gun to a girl's head, Slater responded, going by early reports that indicated there'd been an exchange of gunfire. But he wasn't entirely inaccurate. Sixteen days earlier, Danny had shot first.

A little while later, a surgeon came down and told them that Danny hadn't made it. The bullet in his brain had killed him.

Gloria Lopez was overcome with grief and anger. Anger at the police, who she believed meant to kill Danny from the beginning. Why couldn't they just have wounded him? she wanted to know. Why did they shoot him so many times?

But she was also angry with Danny. He'd put himself in this position. Always promising to do better. To get a job, settle down, take care of his wife and his little girl. But he wanted to hang out on the streets and get drunk, commit crimes. He shot that police officer, and there'd been hell to pay.

True to his word, Danny wouldn't be going back to prison.


A November blizzard howled outside the doors of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the day of Danny's funeral service. The church was filled to standing room only as latecomers squeezed in to get out of the bitter cold.

As he'd requested of Barbara, Danny had been cremated, his ashes placed in a box that had been set in the coffin near the altar. Here and there among the mourners dressed in somber tones were incongruous splashes of bright red. Red shirts. Red pants. Red shoes. Even one young man in a red three-piece suit.

Bloods. Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Bloods. Latino Gangster Bloods. Park Hill Bloods. Hispanics. Blacks. Maybe even a few white and Asian Bloods. And Danny's old subset of the CMG, the Deuce-Seven.

An unmarked police car cruised the neighborhood outside. The Denver Gang Unit monitored the funeral, noting who was arriving -- the shooters, the drug dealers, the OGs and the wannabes -- and watching for members of rival gangs who might want to disrespect the deceased by disrupting the proceedings. The police presence wasn't a secret, but the gang members in attendance largely ignored the officers in the car.

On any other day, such a gathering would have engendered hard looks, harsh words and itchy trigger fingers. Some sets of Bloods don't get along with each other much better than they do with traditional rivals like the Crips, UTAs or Inca Boyz. But on this day, they put aside their differences to pay respects to one of their own, D-Ray, who'd gone out in a blaze, shot five times in a barrage of police gunfire after having shot one of them first. It was the stuff of legend in the gang world.

Sitting in the front of the church, Danny's family -- his grieving mother and father, his sister, his wife and eight-year-old daughter -- hardly noticed the young men in red. But saying goodbye to her boy, Gloria saw the red bandanna that one of them had placed in the coffin.

It made her angry. They meant to show respect to her son. But these guys, with their Blood this and Blood that, the Crips and Inca Boyz, too -- when would they realize that the people they hurt the most were the ones who loved them? Their mothers. Their fathers. Their sisters and brothers. Their wives, girlfriends and children. All of the people whose lives would be rearranged and destroyed in order to visit prisons and graveyards. What good were those bright-red clothes? What honor to be remembered with an old red bandanna?

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