By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It had been blood in and blood out for Danny "D-Ray" Lopez III. And it wasn't over yet, as far as the Bloods were concerned.
The police were still looking for Danny's little brother. "Dusty," as his family called him, had had no real gang reputation before this. But he'd been there when Danny shot the Lakewood cop. And he was the one who took off in the wounded officer's car. And he was there the night the police came gunning for Danny, escaping into the dark while his brother was killed.
There was a chance Dustin might go down the same way. Become a gangland hero. If they caught him, Dustin was facing heavy prosecution. He'd been named as an accomplice in the shooting and had been charged with first-degree attempted murder, among other things. He could be looking at hard time, but he would have a reputation of his own. Bloods behind the walls would look out for him, teach him what he had to know to get by, protect him as well as anyone can be protected in prison. And when he got out, he'd have a name on the streets, just like the brother who'd gone down like a true homeboy.
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"Dealing With the Devil"
After Danny's shooting, Gloria wondered if he was already dead or hurt and dying. It wasn't until the next day that she heard from friends of friends that he was okay. For the past two weeks, he'd been on the run, frightened, sometimes living outdoors. Her nightmare continued, only now it was just one son being hunted by the police.
In the days that followed, the family accused the cops of serving as Danny's judge and executioner. Danny's father demanded an independent investigation. His son, he said, had been "massacred," his shooting of DeRoehn an act of "self-defense" to protect his little brother.
The family kept saying Danny had been shot 48 or 50 times. It didn't seem to matter that he'd been hit five times and only one had been fatal. It was the sense that the officers had shot until they were sure he was dead that troubled her.
The day before Christmas, Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant announced that an investigation had concluded that the officers "believed that it was necessary to fire their weapons to defend themselves and others from what they believed to be the imminent use of deadly physical force by Danny Lopez" and that the shooting "was justified."
In Lakewood, Officer DeRoehn was "taking some time to be with his family" before making a decision about coming back to work, according to police spokeswoman Rammona Robinson; she also said that Detective Slater denied commenting that the Lopez family would be notified "by the coroner" when police caught Danny and Dustin. "He's frankly surprised they would say that. He spent a lot of time with them trying to get Danny to give himself up."
The Lopez family did not agree with Grant's assessment, but they don't have the money to hire a private investigator to look into the shooting. Still, for all their hurt and anger, the Lopez family recognizes that this could have just as easily been a tragedy for the family of Kris DeRoehn or one of the other officers who encountered Danny on that mid-November night.
It could just as easily have been DeRoehn's wife left without a husband on Christmas Eve. But it was Barbara who had to deal with telling her daughter that her daddy would not be coming home again. That there would be no presents from him anymore. No hugs, no kisses. No "It'll be all right."
Gloria Lopez spent Christmas hoping that his brother's death had Dustin "scared straight." But she wondered: If he's sent to prison, will he come out worse for it, more of a gangster, like his brother Danny? Would he have a reputation to live up to, a legacy to follow in his brother's footsteps? Would there be another funeral? More red bandannas?
Will enough ever be enough?
Editor's note:At press time, Gloria Lopez toldWestword that Dustin had been offered a plea bargain. Nine other charges will be dropped if he pleads guilty to aggravated robbery, for which he could be sentenced to between 10 and 32 years in prison.