The veteran Minneapolis police officer charged Friday with threatening to shoot his sister-in-law and accused of putting a gun to his wife’s head in another incident said Friday afternoon that he has no memory of the incidents.
“I don’t recall any of that,” a man who identified himself as officer James J. Lopez said in a phone interview. “I don’t have a memory of that.”
Asked why he did not recall the alleged incidents, Lopez answered, “Probably because of alcohol, maybe.”
Lopez, 55, of St. Paul, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of threats of violence during an Oct. 16 incident at the couple’s home.
“[Lopez’s wife] said that on the night of October 16, the defendant was drinking heavily and started calling her the devil,” the complaint says. “… He was acting out of control and crazy. He yelled at her to get out of the house … She reported that about a year ago he put a gun to her head. She did not report the incident because he threatened to kill her if she ever called the police.”
Lopez said Friday that he is a patrol officer and has been with Minneapolis police force for nearly 25 years. He also said he did not know that the felony count had been filed against him.
“Nope, nope, nope,” Lopez said when asked about his knowledge of the charge. He eventually hung up and sent a text message saying the reporter had the wrong number, though the number was listed for Lopez in two different court filings.
Lopez was charged via arrest warrant, and is not in custody. No attorney was listed for his case.
Lopez allegedly threatened to shoot his wife’s sister as both women prepared to leave the family’s home with the couple’s children. Police were called to the home about 8:21 p.m.
According to the complaint: Lopez’s wife was packing to leave with their children and her sister when Lopez threatened the sister. The sister was sitting in the living room with Lopez when he looked at her and said, “I don’t care where you go, St. Paul or Seattle, I’ll be hiding in the bushes and I’ll shoot you.”
Lopez’s wife told police that he had been drinking that night. The women’s father also witnessed the incident, and told police that Lopez pointed his finger at the sister, who was visiting from out of town, as if he were holding a gun, the complaint says. Their father also said that Lopez went downstairs and that he heard the sound of a gun being racked and loaded.
“They all left and went to his other daughter’s house because they were afraid of what the defendant might do based on his behavior and due to past incidents,” the complaint says.
Lopez’s wife obtained an emergency order for protection against him Thursday, detailing the events of Oct. 16 in her own words.
“[Lopez] threw a beer can at me and told me I better leave or he would kill me [too],” she wrote. “I believed him I left. Last time he put a gun to my head, so this time I [knew] to leave.
“I believe he would shoot me this time.”
She wrote that he had abused her in the past by speeding in their car and then “slamming the brakes,” pushing her and threatening to kill her if she called the police. She expressed fear that the abuse would continue and that her life was in danger.
“[He’s] drinking and he wants me [dead],” she wrote in explaining her fears. “He told me so … He says I’m the devil and a witch.”
The emergency order for protection required Lopez to stay at least two blocks, or a quarter of a mile, away from the family’s home and his wife’s workplace, among other conditions.
Minneapolis Police Sgt. Catherine Michal, a spokeswoman for the department, said that Lopez is still a Minneapolis officer, but that he has been “relieved of duty.”
“Relieved of duty means he’s not working,” said Michal, who declined to elaborate.
Lopez had been assigned to the city’s First Precinct in downtown Minneapolis. Michal said she was unsure how long Lopez had been an officer, and declined to address the allegations.
“The Minneapolis Police Department cannot comment, because this is an open investigation,” she said.
Minneapolis officer Corey Schmidt, another spokesperson, said that there would also be an investigation.
A message left with the police union was not returned.
Lopez pleaded guilty to fourth-degree drunken driving in 2016 in Scott County. The criminal complaint in that case shows that on Jan. 3, 2016, a Savage police officer saw Lopez’s vehicle cross the centerline, overcorrect and escalate between over 50 miles an hour and lower speeds. Lopez had a preliminary blood alcohol content of .119.