Bodycam video of the shooting of Junior Lopez by LVMPD Officers

Junior Lopez: Body Camera Video and Witness Statements Lead to Questions in Latest Shooting by LVMPD

Early in the morning of April 6th, Junior Lopez was stopped by LVMPD Officers Francisco Rivera and Padilla Mills not far from Downtown Las Vegas. According to Lopez’ fiance Amber Bustillos and a friend named Kimberly Gonzalez, who were also in the car at the time, they had taken a wrong turn while heading to the house they had just moved into within the area. Metro’s official statement says that Officers Rivera and Mills were heading to another call when they noticed Lopez’ car driving recklessly on Madge Rd., a side street that those who live in the area often use as a shortcut. Instead of heading to the other call, they initiated a traffic stop on Lopez’ car.

Shortly after, Lopez would be fatally shot by Rivera and Mills while Bustillos and Gonzalez watched from inside the car. Bodycam footage from both officers has since been released, however some aspects of that footage don’t match the official narrative presented by Metro. In addition, Lopez’ family has made some serious allegations, based on the eyewitness accounts of Bustillos and Gonzalez, that the audio on the body camera footage was tampered with to support the official story of the police and justify what they consider to be the murder of Junior Lopez.

False Narratives From the Beginning

Even from the first media reports, the story presented by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department emphasized that Lopez was armed and stated that he had dropped his gun as he was getting out of the car. Also according to those reports, he was then shot after he picked the gun up and actually pointed it at Rivera and Mills. Several days later, during a press conference held by LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Bret Zimmerman,  this continued even though the body camera footage released during that press conference doesn’t support either of those statements.

Note: If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

When you watch the actual bodycam footage it’s pretty clear that he intentionally threw the gun down onto the ground after getting out of the car. In addition, it’s also pretty clear on Officer Mills’ video (the majority of Officer Rivera’s video is obstructed) that he had pushed the gun away from himself prior to being shot. At no point in time did he ever pick up the gun and therefore obviously didn’t point it at Rivera and Mills.

It also wasn’t a split second reaction type of situation where he was shot immediately after moving his hand in the direction of the gun. After he had pushed the gun away, his arm followed though on the motion and was positioned above his head again prior to him being initially shot. (The video of Officer Mills’ bodycam includes a slow motion segment at the end, but it’s actually pretty apparent even at full speed.) They also claim that he was reaching for the gun again when he was shot a third time, but in the video he’s obviously just rolling around in reaction to having been shot.

Yputube description included with video of Las Vegas police press conference regarding the shooting of Junior Lopez
LVMPD’s YouTube video description (Click for full size)

Those themes of Lopez being aggressive and threatening toward Rivera and Mills were also emphasized on YouTube once the video of the press conference was uploaded. (See screenshot on left.) That video was title, “Armed Motorist Confronts Officers.” Then, once again, the description claims that the gun fell on the ground as Lopez got out of the vehicle and that he picked it up and pointed it at Rivera and Mills.

Regardless of what happened afterwards, Lopez being pulled over and then getting on his knees while deliberately throwing the gun onto the ground outside the car was not him “confronting” them.

The entire bodycam footage can be viewed here:

Of course, this isn’t something that would surprise people within Las Vegas that are already familiar with Metro’s typical behavior following shootings by police officers. Metro’s official narrative is often more of an “evolving story-line” that changes dramatically from what the initial reports stated.

Just a few examples of this include:

The bodcam footage recorded by LVMPD Officer Mills (passenger side) can be viewed here:

There’s a reason that the LVMPD does this and it’s not an accident or based on a lack of information on their part. They know that most people will only remember the first thing they heard and a good percentage of people won’t even bother to watch the full video on YouTube. So when they say an armed man “confronted” police officers and then pointed a gun at them, that’s what most people will remember. They won’t remember the updated version where they (eventually) have to admit Junior Lopez was on his knees with nothing in his hand when he was shot and then flailing around in pain from those shots when shot again.

In Las Vegas, this is particularly effective because of the lack of any sort of challenge to the police from the local media. Even more so than in most cities, the news organizations in Vegas rarely ask any hard questions or dispute the official police story. In fact, a vast majority of the time they will simply reprint the press release issued by Metro as if it was fact while barely even pointing out the discrepancies once they do arise.

The bodcam footage recorded by LVMPD Officer Rivera (driver side) can be viewed here:

Allegations that the Audio in the Bodycam Videos was Edited

Beyond those visible discrepancies in the video, Bustillos and Gonzalez have accused Metro of altering the video. According to them, the police officers ordered Lopez to step out of the vehicle and Lopez had actually said, “don’t shoot me” prior to pushing the gun away. They maintain that the audio has been edited to support the police narrative, including removing the word “don’t” from Lopez’ statement just before the shooting.

One of the things in the video pointed out by those who support their allegations is that the audio is muted initially (at the point where a command to get out of the car would have been given). The official explanation for this is that the audio on a bodycam doesn’t start until 30 seconds after it is turned on. While that is true, typically the bodycams would be turned on as soon as a stop was initiated and usually the beginning of such footage would show the inside of the police car as they were pulling a car over.

Instead, in this case the video doesn’t start until Lopez has already stopped the car and gotten out. Also, at the point where the bodycams do start Officers Rivera and Mills already have their weapons out and are pointing them at Lopez. For them to stop in the process of that to turn the cameras on would be odd timing. That by itself certainly isn’t conclusive evidence that the videos have been altered or that original footage has been removed, but it’s yet another “peculiarity” within the body camera videos.

An analysis of the video by a professional forensic audio expert would need to be made to substantiate the claims of parts of it being edited out. However, it should be noted that this would not be the first instance of police within the Las Vegas area being caught editing the audio on an official video. Dashcam video from a 2016 arrest in nearby Boulder City had the audio altered to support a charge of resisting arrest. The fact that the audio was edited was not only testified to by a forensic audio expert, but also the dashcam video of a Nevada Highway Patrol car that had recorded the same exact time frame later produced during discovery did not include the audio that had been added to the footage from the Boulder City Police Department’s dash camera video by someone.

Incidentally, Lopez had recently applied to become a LVMPD officer and had just taken the written exam as part of that application two days prior, on April 4th. So, obviously he was not a criminal with a lengthy record or someone who disliked the police.

A side by side view of bodycam footage from both officers can be viewed here:

The full press conference can be viewed here:

References

Additional details of the family’s side of the story and their allegations that the video was edited can be found at a post entitled “Murder on the Shortcut Road” published on the Forced Trajectory Project website by Nissa Tzun of Families United 4 Justice.

Local News Report and Interview with Family:

FOX5 Vegas – KVVU

Posts Related to the LVMPD

Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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