Special to the AmNews
Every year on May 1, Caroline Lopez, 51, and her family go through a memorial ritual at her apartment in Bed-Stuy. Lopez says that she simultaneously feels the wound of a son lost and cries for justice for another Black man slain by the police during this annual event.
May 1, 2003, was the afternoon 19-year-old Carlos Lopez was shot by NYPD Detective Alfred Robinson across the street from 658 Gates Ave.
Robinson and another plainclothes officer alleged that Lopez was one of the men who shot and killed 21-year-old James Hodge in that building lobby. The detective shot Lopez in the shoulder through the window of that vehicle.
Carlos Lopez wasn’t the shooter, however; the perpetrator got away and is still on the loose, according to Caroline Lopez. Instead, Carlos Lopez was buying a mixtape and ran away when he heard the gunshots. Rather than seek medical attention, the mother states that the detectives, in what may have been an attempt at a cover-up, dragged Carlos Lopez across the street to be closer to the scene of the crime. The detectives then allegedly took the black hoodie the shooter tossed aside and put it on Carlos Lopez. After 30 minutes on the scene, he died of a ruptured vessel and blood loss caused by the bullet. The death happened a month before his son was born.
Twelve years later, Carlo Lopez’s son, Carlos Lopez Jr., is a soft-spoken 12-year-old. The family still struggles with Carlos Lopez Sr.’s death; the empty space he left in their small apartment is occupied by memorial candles, a Mary statue, flowers and a large portrait of him superimposed upon the heavens.
Robinson suffered no formal repercussions from the shooting. He received a Medal of Valor from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and then-Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in 2009. Robinson even greeted a nonplussed Lillian Lopez when they incidentally crossed paths at a game at Barclays Center.
“He was like he knows me and said, ‘How you doing?’” Lillian Lopez said. “I said, ‘You know who I am?’ He said, ‘You’re Carlos’s sister.”
Caroline Lopez says the contrast between her pain and Robinson’s relative contentment isn’t lost on her.
“Now these cops are in the Barclays Center. They’re partying,” Caroline Lopez said. “This cop killed my son. He’s in trial talking about how he’s gotta pay for his daughter’s tuition for college. He bought his son a car … I’m looking at him and my son is in a grave.”
The trial took place in November 2011. Johnnie Cochran, known for defending O.J. Simpson and advocating for police brutality victims, agreed to take the case before passing away in 2005, before the case went to trial.
Still, Caroline Lopez had plenty of evidence. Witnesses said that Carlos Lopez didn’t do the shooting. The black hoodie that the cops put on him didn’t have the hole where the bullet hit Carlos Lopez, a sign of foul play. There was also a substantial number of signs that he was dragged across the street, including the blood trail and the spent bullet. Robinson admitted he lost sight of the shooting suspect, essentially showing negligence on his part. The police description was also fallacious.
“They say he had on Nike boots, my brother had on sneakers,” Lillian Lopez said. “They say he had on jeans. My brother had a sweatsuit.”
Still, the Lopez family lost the case; the judge ruled in favor of Robinson and claimed he did his duty.
Caroline Lopez hasn’t given up on finding justice after the major defeat. The mother said police had broken into her house twice on a drug raids, claiming they’ve heard reports of drug use in the building. Caroline Lopez theorized that it’s because she won’t let the case go. But she remains undeterred.
“I’m not gonna rest, and my son’s spirit isn’t going to rest until he gets justice,” she said.