A Mobile Police officer was terminated Wednesday after department officials revealed he opened fire on an unarmed man he’d followed out of Mobile’s police jurisdiction to a popular Prichard nightclub last weekend.According to Chief James Barber, probationary MPD officer Ivan Lopez was working a routine DUI detail in the department’s third precinct in the early hours of Saturday, Dec. 10, when he lost sight of a motorist he suspected was driving under the influence.
Instead of following protocol and ending the pursuit, Barber said Lopez continued to drive into Prichard’s police jurisdiction until he located the vehicle at the Galaxy Club on Wilson Ave.
“[Lopez] engaged the driver, and there was a confrontation where the driver tried to re-renter the car,” Barber said. “The officer fired a Taser initially, but as the driver began to drive off, he fired at least five rounds from his service weapon into the driver’s side of the car.”
On Monday, the driver was identified and interviewed. Barber said the driver sustained a gunshot wound to his left leg and a “grazing wound” on his right leg that officials believe resulted from the confrontation with Lopez.
According to Barber, “no weapon was claimed to have been seen” when Lopez reported the incident to his superiors that morning, and “no weapon has been recovered” in the MPD’s investigation so far.
The driver has not been identified and is not suspected of committing a crime. However, Barber said Lopez knew the individual through “contact he had with him while he was employed by the Prichard Police Department.”
In total, Barber said Lopez’s actions constituted four “major violations” of MPD policy. He added that subsequent criminal investigations into the shooting were also already underway by the Mobile County District Attorney’s office and the local branch of the FBI.
“Our standard protocol for minor traffic enforcement is obviously to do so within our own jurisdiction,” Barber said. “If we have to, the protocol is for an officer to notify an operator and their supervisor to get permission. None of that happened in this case.”
According to Barber, Lopez has been employed with the MPD since September. Despite having logged previous experience with police departments in Prichard and Chickasaw, Lopez has been listed as a probationary officer due to MPD protocols for new hires.Lopez had another off-duty incident that occurred outside of his assigned police jurisdiction in 2012 while he was still an officer in Prichard. According to reports from the time, Lopez was arrested by MPD officers near the Cochran Bridge on the Causeway Aug. 7, 2012, after being seen “weaving in and out of traffic, pulling out in front of other drivers and slamming on his brakes.”
He was charged and convicted of reckless endangerment in Mobile Municipal Court in relation to that incident, though he continued to work for the Prichard PD. After appealing his case to the Circuit Court of Mobile County, Lopez saw the charges against him thrown out.
Despite that, Barber said nothing out of the ordinary had shown up in Lopez’s background check when he was first hired by the department earlier this year. However, he did say the 2012 incident with the Prichard PD factored into Lopez’s swift termination this week.
“We are an organization of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures,” he added. “Violation of the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that place police personnel or citizens at risk require swift and decisive action, as we have done in this situation.”