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October 2006

Corporal Luis Lopez

Montebello (CA) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Corporal Luis Lopez of the Montebello (CA) Police Department as Officer of the Month for October 2006.

Saving the life of a stabbing victim, rescuing a mother and her two children from a burning overturned vehicle, and trading shots with armed suspects are the types of stories found in superhero comic books. However, the citizens of Montebello, and the men and women of its police department, know that these are factual accounts of cases found in Corporal Luis Lopez's personnel file.

Corporal Luis Lopez began his law enforcement career with the Montebello Police Department in 1992 as a Police Cadet. He made his mark early in his career as a Field Training Officer when he responded to a call of a woman heard screaming at a local motel. Unable to gain access to the room through the doorway, Officer Lopez and his team smashed through the window, disarmed the suspect and rescued the victim who had been stabbed 45 times. Corporal Lopez's heroism and quick thinking would only be fine tuned throughout his years with the department.

On that rainy, Friday, March 3, 2006 Corporal Lopez planned to spend the afternoon of his day off at a local shopping center in San Dimas. Traveling westbound, as he approached the intersection near his destination, Corporal Lopez heard a series of gunshots and observed a white sports car, traveling eastbound, spinning and swerving out of control before coming to a stop in the westbound lane. Corporal Lopez continued westward in the direction from where the shots had been fired and toward that white vehicle. As he approached he witnessed a tan colored vehicle pull alongside the sports car and open fire on its driver.

Pulling his vehicle behind cover, Corporal Lopez immediately made the decision to disarm the gunman. He deployed his off duty weapon, while holding his badge in his left hand, and ran towards the threat. While running he identified himself as a police officer and instructed onlookers to take cover. He knew the suspect had fired more than 10 rounds, but was reluctant to engage the shooter in a gunfight as it was a busy location, and he feared that an onlooker would be shot in the crossfire. When Corporal Lopez was within 50 feet of the vehicles, the suspect returned to his car and recklessly fled the scene, heading eastbound.

Corporal Lopez flagged down a tow truck driver and ordered him to block all eastbound traffic. He ran to the white sports car and found its female driver suffering from numerous gunshot wounds in her neck and torso. Using his cell phone, he contacted his department's dispatch requesting immediate assistance and an emergency response team for the victim. He requested dispatch call the San Dimas Sheriff's station and advise them to close Lone Hill Avenue.

Knowing that any evidence gathered at the scene would be critical in any subsequent arrest or trial, Corporal Lopez strove to preserve the crime scene. He instructed a clerk from a local store to bring him plastic cups, which he used to cover the spent shell casings. Alone at the scene for two to three minutes, Corporal Lopez was able to brief the first responding unit with accurate information on the suspect's vehicle type, the direction in which he traveled, the location of evidence left at the scene and those who were witnesses to the shooting.

Corporal Lopez later learned that the shooter was the victim's husband who, at the time, was wanted for shooting a Glendora Police Department officer approximately one month prior. The suspect was later apprehended and is currently awaiting trial.

"Corporal Lopez has placed his life on the line on and off duty on several occasions, and deserves recognition for his actions," states Lieutenant Gregory Sells. "In addition to being a highly decorated and courageous officer, Corporal Lopez is a hard worker who prides himself in treating his fellow workers and citizens with dignity and respect."

Corporal Lopez has received more than 80 commendations from local, state, and federal agencies. In 1999, he was awarded the Montebello Police Department Officer of the Year Award and has been awarded the California Peace Officers Association Award for Valor. His own department has awarded him its Medal of Valor, Medal of Courage, Medal of Lifesaving, and twice the Medal of Merit.

Corporal Luis Lopez is married with no children and serves on his department's Special Occurrence Response Team; Special Investigations Unit. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master's Degree from California State University at Long Beach and is a member of the Montebello Police Officers Association as well as the California Narcotics Officers Association.