Authorities have identified Sgt. Bradley Lopez as the Santa Fe Police Department officer who fatally shot a man last week during a downtown foot pursuit.
Lopez, who has been with the department seven years, remained on paid leave Wednesday, a week after June 23 the shooting, as parallel investigations proceed into whether the shots he fired violated department policy or New Mexico law, authorities said.
New Mexico State Police is conducting the criminal investigation. That agency issued a news release Wednesday morning publicizing Lopez’s name for the first time.
The sergeant had been sent to investigate a fight that ended in gunfire at De Vargas Park, the State Police news release reads. As he arrived in the area, Lopez heard on his police radio that fellow officers were chasing a man later identified as 29-year-old Francisco Javier Lino-Gutierrez—suspected of participating in the fight at the park—on foot along De Vargas Street.
Lopez joined the chase, according to State Police, and watched Lino-Gutierrez run up Old Santa Fe Trail, waving a handgun and pointing it at officers. Police yelled at him to drop the gun, State Police say, but Lino-Gutierrez instead turned and pointed it at them.
That’s when Lopez fired at least one shot, striking Lino-Gutierrez, who died at the scene.
It was the second time Lopez has fired while on-duty for the city, according to SFPD Deputy Chief Paul Joye. The first was in May of 2019, when state Game and Fish officials authorized him to shoot and kill a deer that had been severely injured by a vehicle.
“SFPD has no other incidents in which Officer Lopez has fired a gun on duty,” Joye tells SFR, though he did not say whether Lopez had worked previously for another department or fired his gun while on duty elsewhere.
Immediately after the shooting, two investigations began: SFPD will examine whether Lopez’s actions fall within department policy and could result in discipline up to termination if they didn’t; the State Police inquiry will focus on whether the shooting was justified under New Mexico law.
Longtime police attorney John D’Amato is representing Lopez.
“I think State Police are conducting their interviews last week and this week,” D’Amato tells SFR. “It’s probably going to take them at least 30 days—as long as six weeks—to roughly complete their investigation. They may have to wait even longer for scientific evidence to come in from the labs.”
D’Amato would not say whether Lopez has been interviewed by State Police or SFPD’s Internal Affairs investigators.
Joye and D’Amato both say they expect Lopez to return to work next week.
“When he comes back, based on what I know about him, I imagine he will be back in the field right away and not on desk duty,” D’Amato says.”That’s barring some unforeseen finding between now and then, and I don’t think anything negative [is] going to come out.”
D’Amato raises concerns about the rigor of psychological evaluations and counseling police departments offer their officers after shootings, though he did not comment specifically on SFPD’s protocols or Lopez’ status.
At SFPD, officers involved in “critical incidents,” including when they fire shots on duty, are required to meet with a contracted psychologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation. The medical professional must “provide a report on the [employee’s] fitness for duty.”
“The employee shall not return to duty until cleared by the examining psychologist/psychologist,” the department’s policy states.
As SFR reported in a cover story last month, many police practices experts are concerned that officers at some departments, including New Mexico State Police, send their officers back to work too quickly. For example, NMSP officer Gene Gonzales shot and killed a man last October, was quickly returned to duty and fatally shot another man six days later.
The State Police release identifying Lopez includes something of an ironic phrase:
“For information regarding the initial call and the administrative actions on the officers, please contact SFPD,” it reads, in part.
While SFPD confirmed that Lopez is still on paid leave, the department does not disclose the results of its internal investigations—regardless of whether an officer was disciplined for on-duty conduct.
SFR is suing the city and its police department over that policy (hence, the irony).
Meanwhile, State Police has repeatedly refused SFR’s requests for past administrative disciplinary records for the officer who fatally shot Rodney Applewhite in November and the NMSP sergeant who was also present at the scene.
The State Police news release indicates the agency will turn over its completed investigation to “the appropriate district attorney’s office for review” and possible prosecution.
In the case of Lopez’ shooting of Lino-Gutierrez, that will be First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies. (Read this week’s SFR story detailing how she plans to approach police shooting cases here.)
Lopez’ gunshots last week were followed 12 hours later by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies fatally shooting a man after a vehicle pursuit on Siler Road just north of Rufina Street. State Police are investigating that shooting as well, and the agency has not identified either the shooting deputies or the victim.