Blood In, Blood Out

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

They had a definite answer ten minutes later, when ten cars roared up and twenty men, some carrying rifles, jumped from the cars. With her children screaming in the street, Danaia, her husband and her mother were all told to lie face-down in the dirt of the front yard.

Panicked, Gloria Lopez complained that she couldn't catch her breath. Danaia begged to be allowed to go to her still-crying children. But they were forced to remain where they were while police searched the house. The police didn't find the boys, but everyone knew it was just a matter of time.

In the days that followed, calls began to pour into the Lakewood Police Department. Some callers offered tips, others prayed for the officer's recovery. Many were from officers in other jurisdictions who wanted to know what they could do to help. Some had been shot themselves, or knew of partners or other officers who had.

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.

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Previous Westword article

"Dealing With the Devil"
A six-part look at the murder of Brandy DuVall and the members of the Deuce-Seven gang.
By Steve Jackson

DeRoehn was lucky. The bullet had not struck bone or severed a major artery; otherwise, he could have lost his leg -- and thus his career -- or bled to death. It looked as if he would recover physically. But other officers knew that half the battle would be getting past the trauma and fear that came with being shot in the line of duty, and that could be as debilitating for a police officer as any physical wound.

They also believed that Danny Lopez represented a very real danger to the public. It was one thing to trade gunfire with rival gangs, but a willingness to shoot an armed police officer showed a desperation that could get innocent people hurt.

The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office filed charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Members of Danny's family told the police that he had sworn he would never go back to prison. That information was relayed to metro-area police agencies.

On the morning of November 3, a Lakewood training officer sat with police recruit Keith Marks in a patrol car on Wadsworth Avenue, checking out the photographs of Danny and Dustin Lopez that had appeared in a newspaper. Marks looked up and noticed a young Hispanic male on foot who matched the description of Dustin Lopez.

Marks, who had started training in March and was due to graduate in nine days, left the patrol car and stopped the young man on the sidewalk next to the Wal-Mart parking lot. As Marks began to frisk him, the suspect suddenly bolted, running across the busy street and hopping the median. Marks ran after him. Twice the officer tried to knock the youth to the ground as they headed toward the Discovery Land Child Care center. The second time, about halfway across southbound Wadsworth, Marks tripped and fell to the asphalt. Rising to his feet, he looked up to see a gun pointed at him.

The training officer could not shoot to defend Marks, because Marks was between him and the suspect. At the same time, Discovery Land employee Kelly Lentz was watching the chase while holding one of the eight toddlers in her care. She saw the officer trip and then get up as the young man pointed a gun at him. The pair were about ten to fifteen feet apart when the youth fired twice, striking Marks in the leg before turning and fleeing again. The police recruit gamely tried to follow, pulling his own gun and firing five times before collapsing in the parking lot next to the child-care center.

Marks, who hadn't yet seen one full day on the job, was rushed to St. Anthony's Hospital. Like DeRoehn, he was lucky and was expected to recover fully -- at least from the bullet wound.

More than a hundred officers from several agencies, including a dozen K-9 units, responded to the manhunt. Helicopters buzzed overhead as heavily armed officers in bulletproof vests sealed off an area bordered by Wadsworth, Garrison Street, West Alameda Avenue and West Sixth Avenue.

Lakewood agent Stacey Collis, a school resource officer, and Detective Jeff Rogers spotted the suspect walking around the corner of a building off Wadsworth. When the suspect saw them, he took off running back into the neighborhood, with the officers giving chase. The youth was eventually cornered and gave himself up.

It turned out that this cop-shooter wasn't one of the Lopez brothers, but a sixteen-year-old named Benjamin Sandoval. Sandoval was already wanted in Denver for minor traffic violations. Now he, too, was facing charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and possessing a handgun. His weapon, also a 9 mm, was located under a pile of leaves in a backyard.

Sandoval indicated that he was with someone. Taking no chances that the second person might be one of the Lopez brothers, the police kept the area sealed off for three hours while they went door-to-door. They found no other suspects.

Before DeRoehn, it had been more than twenty years since a Lakewood police officer had been shot. Now there had been two in just over three days. Everyone who carried a badge was tense.

The Lopez family members resigned themselves to the fact that it was unlikely the boys would come through this unharmed. On the day the police had raided Danaia's house, she and her mother told other family members that they had asked Lakewood detective Gregg Slater if they would be notified when the police caught the brothers. They said he told them they would hear about it "from the coroner."

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