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Five officers fired at homicide suspect during deadly chase through Las Vegas, police say


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Officers from two Nevada law enforcement agencies opened fire during a pre-dawn chase through Las Vegas as they tried to stop a man who fatally shot his mother, then stole a police cruiser and carjacked bystanders at gunpoint while trying to evade police, authorities said Friday.

The rampage two days after Christmas left three people dead: The suspect, his mother and a bystander who was on his way to work when he pulled over for the emergency vehicles pursuing the suspect. Jerry Lopez, a 39-year-old father of seven, unknowingly entered the suspect's path and was killed.

Authorities haven't yet identified the suspect, his mother or a motive. But on Friday they said a total of five officers fired their weapons during the chase through the suburbs of Las Vegas.

They were Las Vegas police officers Jacob Mekeel and Timothy Brooks. Nevada State Police troopers Martin Moran, Danny Kincaid and Luis Villanueva also opened fire on the suspect, authorities said.

According to police, the officers had shot at the suspect at least twice during the chase but have not said whether the suspect was killed by police gunfire. The suspect has been described by police as a man in his 30s.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is expected to release more information at a news conference in the coming days.

Authorities said the deadly crime spree began before dawn Wednesday, when the suspect shot his mother near his childhood home in southeastern Las Vegas. When officers arrived to investigate that shooting, they heard more gunfire and took cover.

Around the same time, police said, the suspect stole an unoccupied patrol car and fled toward the southwestern edge of the city.

About 8 miles (12.9 kilometers) west of his parents' home, the suspect abandoned the patrol car and carjacked two more bystanders before crossing paths with a van driven by Jerry Lopez, authorities said.

Police said the suspect approached the van, opened fire on the driver, then dragged his body out of the vehicle.

Karen Lopez said her husband had just left for work as a driver for a medical linen supply company and was minutes away from their home when he was killed.

As the suspect took off, police officers fired multiple rounds into the stolen van, which came to a stop a short time later.

Capt. Joshua Martinez said the suspect initially refused to surrender, but SWAT officers later approached the van after the suspect stopped moving inside the vehicle. The suspect was declared dead at the scene.

Married for 13 years, Karen and Jerry Lopez fostered 12 children together since 2017. Six of the kids returned to their biological parents. They adopted the other six, making their 11-year-old biological son a big brother to two sisters and four brothers.

Karen Lopez told The Associated Press that she and her children are trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy: The eldest keeps texting his father's phone to tell him how much he loves him. One of the 5-year-olds is angry that he hasn't yet seen a photo of his dad in heaven.

“He was such an amazing father to our kids,” Karen Lopez said. “He would just walk through the door after work, throw his stuff down and just jump right in it with the kids, not even taking two minutes to himself.”

Originally from Mexico, Jerry Lopez lived in Southern California before moving to Las Vegas in 2006. He met his future wife through mutual friends at church.

Karen Lopez was told that she might not ever be able to carry a child, so when she became pregnant with their son, she said they started to dream about having a bigger family.

The couple kept trying, but their dream began to fade, she said. Then, around that time, their church started working with the foster care system.

Karen Lopez said they considered it a sign, “that even if we physically couldn't have our own biological kids, we were being called to love kids that needed a home.”

Now their 11-year-old son says he will step up and be a father to his adopted siblings, Karen Lopez said.