“Eyewitness Amber Bustillos Challenges Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Official Narrative of the Junior Lopez Police Homicide.“
The video embedded below was created by Nissa Tzun through the Center for Community Change, where she serves as a communications fellow. Tzun is also a member of the Forced Trajectory Project and Families United 4 Justice, both of which advocate for police accountability and work to support and bring attention to the impact of police violence on the families of victims. Within the Las Vegas area, members of Nevada Cop Block frequently work with these groups to document and oppose police abuses.
Within the video, Amber Bustillos discusses the shooting of Junior Lopez by LVMPD Officers Francisco Rivera and Padilla Mills near Downtown Las Vegas. Bustillos, who is the fiance of Lopez, was present during the traffic stop in which he was killed, along with a friend named Kimberly Gonzalez. Both of them were eyewitnesses to the shooting, which took place on April 6th of this year.
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Inconsistencies in that Official Narrative
As has been detailed previously here on NVCopBlock.org, Bustillos and Gonzalez have both disputed the narrative that the police have presented to justify the decision made by Officers Rivera and Mills to shoot Lopez that night. During the press conference in which the body camera footage (also embedded below) was released, Metro spokesperson Assistant Sheriff Bret Zimmerman described Lopez as an aggressive person who “confronted” the police and implied that his gun had been unintentionally dropped as he exited the car. In addition, the official story of the police was that Lopez had picked up the gun off the ground and pointed it at Rivera and Padilla prior to being shot.
The body camera footage doesn’t support those claims at all. Throughout the video, Junior Lopez is on his knees and acting in a subservient manner, not in any way aggressive. He also can quite clearly be seen pushing the gun away from himself prior to being shot. At no point does he pick up the gun (or even attempt to). Obviously, that also means that he didn’t point the gun at them. To the contrary, after pushing the gun away he raises his empty hand back above his head.
This also wasn’t some split second act on the part of the officers in which they shot immediately assuming he was reaching for the gun. There is a delay between the time he follows through on the push and has his hand above his head again and the first time he is shot. It’s also rather apparent on the video that Lopez is simply flailing around in pain and not reaching for the gun, as the police claim, prior to the second time he is shot.
“Don’t Shoot Me”
The family’s disagreements surrounding Lopez’ killing go well beyond the question of whether the officers acted improperly in deciding to shoot him. Bustillos and Gonzalez have both stated that Lopez did not get out of the car on his own accord as the police have claimed. Instead they say that he was ordered to get out of the car. The LVMPD have also claimed that Lopez yelled “shoot me” before pushing the gun away. As she mentions in the video, Bustillos and Gonzalez maintain that Lopez actually said “don’t shoot me” to Officers Rivera and Mills.
While the words “shoot me” can be heard on the body camera video, there is no footage of the beginning of the traffic stop and Lopez is already outside of the car when it starts. Bustillos and other members of Lopez’ family charge that the word “don’t” was edited out of the official bodycam footage. They also believe that the gap in the beginning of the video is there because it was tampered with to eliminate the order to get out of the car.
In order to prove the audio was altered an examination by an expert would need to be conducted. However, it would not be the first time that a Las Vegas area police department was caught editing the audio on official police footage. Proving the beginning footage was deleted would likely be impossible. It is odd though that the video would be started so late into a traffic stop. Typically, in body camera videos the beginning would show an officer driving, especially in the case of video of a traffic stop.
The timing of the beginning of the footage presents another peculiarity, in that the officers are already holding their guns on Lopez when it begins. Therefore, in order to start the camera they would have to move their hand from their gun and divert their attention away from Lopez. That would seem like an unlikely thing for them to do if they were facing someone who they perceived as a threat with a gun nearby.
The entire bodycam footage can be viewed here:
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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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