May 26, 2011
Between March 2006 and November 2010, Officer Daniel Alvarado of San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District Police was suspended four times. Four times he was informed by supervisors that he faced “immediate termination.” For some reason, when it came time to fire Alvarado, his superiors just couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger. Alvarado displayed no similar scruples on November 12, 2010, when he murdered 14-year-old Derek Lopez, who had just taken part in a brief scuffle with another student.
Owing to his own troubled past, Lopez was a student at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Academy. At around 4:30 PM on the fatal day, Lopez sucker-punched a 13-year-old classmate at a bus stop.
“He just hit me once,” the student later recalled in a sworn deposition. “It wasn’t a fight. It was nothing.”
Unfortunately, Alvarado happened to be prowling the intersection in his patrol car, and witnessed the trivial dust-up.
“Freeze!” Alvarado shouted at Lopez, who bolted from the scene. Alvarado, in his mid-40s, briefly gave token pursuit before relating the first of several self-serving falsehoods.
“I just had one run from me,” wheezed the winded tax-feeder. “I saw an assault in progress. He punched the guy several times.” (Emphasis added.)
A supervisor instructed Alvarado “not [to] do any big search over there” in pursuit of the assailant. “Let’s stay with the victim and see if we can identify [the suspect] that way.”
Rather than doing as he was ordered, Alvarado bundled the “victim” — who was probably more terrified of the armed functionary than of his obnoxious classmate — into the patrol car and went in pursuit of Lopez.
Lopez vaulted a nearby fence and hid in a backyard shed containing Christmas decorations. The homeowner saw the intrusion, and a neighbor flagged down Alvarado’s patrol car. The officer drew his gun “when he came up the driveway,” recalled the homeowner. Within a minute or so, a single gunshot resonated through the neighborhood. When asked by the horrified homeowner what had happened, Alvarado — who reportedly looked “dazed or distant” — replied that Lopez “came at me.”
“The suspect bull rushed his way out of the shed and lunged right at me,” the timorous creature later claimed in an official report. “The suspect was literally inches away from me, and I feared for my own safety.”(Emphasis added.)
Alvarado was lying, of course. An autopsy revealed “no evidence of close range firing [on] the wound,” and no gunpowder stains were found on the victim’s bloody t-shirt.
By this time, the boy who had taken the punch at the bus stop had called his mother via cell phone. She arrived shortly after Alvarado had gunned down Lopez.
“At one point, the mother told a witness, `He shot him? Why did he shoot him? He didn’t have to shoot him,” reports the San Antonio News-Express.
Alvarado, who four times was on the cusp of being fired for insubordination, disobeyed a direct order on November 12. He falsified key details of the shooting in his official report. A 14-year-old boy was gunned down execution-style for the venial offense of engaging in an adolescent scuffle, and for compelling an overweight middle-aged badge-polisher to run a few hundred yards. According to the San Antonio Police Department, this is all perfectly acceptable: The department ruled that the murder of Derek Lopez was a “justified” shooting.
Although he’s been removed from patrol duty, Alvarado remains on the force, albeit in a tax-subsidized sinecure. Although he had repeatedly been threatened with termination for sloppiness or defiance in carrying out administrative duties, Alvarado faces neither criminal prosecution nor professional censure for murdering a 14-year-old boy. Apparently, insubordination in carrying out office functions is a much graver matter than insubordination that results in the needless death of an adolescent Mundane.
Despite the fact that this incident involved two teenage boys who attended a special school for troubled juveniles, parents should understand that students in practically any government-run “educational” institution can fall prey to sudden — and potentially lethal — police violence.
“Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that increasingly have come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning,” observes investigative reporter Annette Fuentes in her infuriating and valuable new book Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse. Federally subsidized “zero tolerance” policies growing out of the “War on Drugs” have created what Fuentes and other critics of the system call the “school-to-prison pipeline”: “If yesterday’s prank got a slap on the wrist, today those wrists could be slapped with handcuffs.”
As the case of Derek Lopez illustrates, a childish prank could be treated as a capital offense, with summary execution carried out by a corrupt cop who doesn’t have to endure so much as a slap on the wrist.