Family, friends and colleagues of White Mountain Apache Police Officer Adrian Lopez Sr. gathered in Whiteriver Thursday to say goodbye.
The 35-year-old was shot dead on June 2 while conducting a traffic stop on East Fork Road in Whiteriver. It was Arizona’s first death on duty that year.
Lopez’s funeral service was held at 10 a.m. at the Chief Alchesay Activity Center after a procession passed Lopez’s coffin and members of his family through the community. His wife and two children were present Thursday but did not speak during the service.
A few hundred people filled the bleachers in the center Thursday, including officers from departments across the state and the White Mountain Apache Police Department. Many residents in attendance wore shirts made in honor of Lopez, bearing his name and the end of waking hours.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was also in attendance Thursday, his spokesman Jared Touchin told The Arizona Republic.
An American flag was draped over Lopez’s coffin, which lay in front of a stage decorated with red, white, and blue flowers. A seal of the Apache tribe of the White Mountains was heard as its recently elected leader, Kasey Velasquez, addressed the crowd.
“As a former law enforcement officer, I can tell you that every time an officer hugs and kisses his beloved wife or children goodbye, that knowingly could be their final hug,” Velasquez said.
“We can’t imagine your incredible grief, but we want you to know that the White Mountain Apache Tribe mourns by your side as a community,” he continued, directing his words to Lopez’s family, who are in the front two rows sat. “It’s going to be hard, life will never be the same for you, but you will get up and leave and your life will make Officer Lopez proud.”
Few details about Lopez’s personal background were revealed during the service. But a funeral schedule said he was born in Los Angeles in 1986. His wife, Lushana Lopez told ABC15 earlier this week that they had been married for 10 years and that he had served in the army.
She said they moved from Los Angeles to Wyoming, where Lopez eventually became a police officer, which was a dream of his, Lushana Lopez told the news outlet.
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Lopez had only started working for the tribe’s police department in January. He previously worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs from March to December last year. The White Mountain Apache Police Department in a Facebook post earlier this year said he was “a cross-distribution” from the Wind River Reservation in Crowheart, Wyoming, which has a police department run by the bureau, according to Wyoming Public Radio.
Pastor Marty Paxson of the Whiteriver Assembly of God said during the service that Lopez made a huge impact on the community during his short tenure with the Police Department. He made presentations at local schools and interacted with youth in the community, Paxson said.
“I don’t know him personally, maybe he pulled me over a couple of times, I don’t know,” he said, drawing a few giggles from those present. “But it breaks my heart as a pastor to know that we have to go through this again, we have to face this again.”
Two years ago, David Kellywood was the White Mountain Apache Police Officer shot on duty. It devastated the tight-knit community, said parishioners at the timeincluding Kellywood’s wife, Kamellia Kellywood, and their two sons.
White Mountain Apache Police Chief Theodore Shaw also spoke briefly at Thursday’s service, first softly into the microphone and then emotionally.
“Lopez said if that day ever came for him, he didn’t want the boring long talk about his body. Lopez wanted to go out with a bang,” he said while fighting back tears as several members of Lopez’s family nodded in agreement.
“Today, Lopez is going out with a bang,” Shaw continued. He continued to chant a few words out loud, eventually yelling, “We’re going to miss you, Adrian.”
The service ended with a 21-gun salute, a flag-folding ceremony and a final radio call. Several police helicopters flew unheard.
The folded American flag was later given to a member of Lopez’s family. His wife received the Lopez police hat and a Pendleton blanket, which she draped over his coffin just before loading it into a vehicle.
Lopez, who was not a registered member of the White Mountain Apace Tribe, will be buried in Los Angeles, according to Police Department spokesman Matthias Lupe.
The second officer was also injured by shooting and the suspect was killed
The incident of June 2nd began just after 7 p.m. when Lopez pulled over a vehicle on East Fork Road, although it’s unclear why, officials said at a news conference earlier.
An incident then occurred between Lopez and the driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Kevin Dwight Nashio, 25. Officials said Nashio lives in Whiteriver and is known to the police department, but they declined to elaborate.
During the fight, Nashio shot and killed Lopez, officials said. It is unclear whose weapon he used.
He then stole Lopez’s tagged squad car and led other White Mountain Apache police officers on a roughly 40-mile chase through “very rough and rural areas” of tribal land, officials said. Nashio and the officers were engaged in “a rolling gunfight” during the chase, officials said.
At one point, Nashio’s police vehicle crashed into a tree near Hawley Lake, and a short time later another “gun battle” began, officials said. 29-year-old White Mountain Apache Police Officer Lonnie Thompson was then injured.
Thompson, who has been a police department employee and supervisor for “some time” was airlifted to a Phoenix-area hospital that night, according to police. His condition on Thursday was not confirmed to the Arizona Republic, but he was present at a candlelight vigil for Lopez outside the police department on Monday. after ABC15.
“Tonight is quite emotional for me,” he told the news outlet. “I loved him. Even though he was only here with us for five short months, we definitely had a good bond and connection.”
Nashio was also shot dead during the shootout with police, officials said.
The shooting is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Deaths in the line of duty in Arizona
Two Arizona officers were deliberately killed in 2021, down one from the previous year. according to the Federal Criminal Police Officewhich collects and compiles the data from various law enforcement agencies across the country.
As of May 31, at least 34 people have been shot at by Arizona police officers.
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