Date: April 27, 2016
PAROLE DENIED FIVE YEARS FOR MAN CONVICTED OF ATTEMPTING TO MURDER TWO CHP OFFICERS DURING TRAFFIC STOP
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Board of Parole Hearings (Panel), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation denied parole five years for an inmate convicted of attempting to murder two California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers after being pulled over. Felipe Verde Lopez, 39, is currently being held at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. Lopez was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 19, 1998, of two felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation and sentencing enhancements for the use of a firearm and attempted murder of a peace officer. Lopez was sentenced to 11 years to life in state prison.
This case was originally prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Moore. Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos appeared at the hearing today to oppose Lopez’s parole. CHP representatives including one of the victims were also present to oppose the inmate’s parole. Lopez will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2021.
At today’s hearing one of the CHP officers involved in the incident spoke before the Panel and said in part, “As a police officer, I was put in the worst possible situation. My reaction was to save my own life. Since that night throughout the rest of my career, on car stops, there isn’t a time that this doesn’t come back to the back of my mind. I can vividly remember every detail of this event. He went on to say, “I can accept the apology but would appreciate him taking full responsibility.”
The inmate spoke before the Panel and contended that he never intended to shoot the officers but attempted to commit suicide. He continues to deny responsibility despite evidence which showed the gun had a malfunction and that the inmate was doing everything he could to unjam the slide mechanism and fire at the officers.
In denying the inmate parole, the Panel addressed Lopez’s denial of his actions and his recent rule violation in 2011 for participating in a racial riot. The Panel recommended Lopez to stay free from disciplinary action, stay away from gangs and their politics, and to come up with a mental health plan. The Commissioner addressed the inmate and said in part, “We need to see through your actions that you’re capable of being non-violent on the outside.”
Circumstances of the Case
At approximately 2:15 a.m. on Oct. 27, 1997, Lopez, then-20, was driving under the influence of methamphetamine traveling south on the Interstate 5 highway when he was pulled over for a traffic stop by two California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers south of Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana. After pulling over, Lopez got out of his car holding a gun in his hand and pointed it at the CHP officers.
Lopez began making several jerking motions with his hand indicating he was pulling the trigger and anticipating the gun to recoil but the gun would not fire. Both CHP officers retreated behind their vehicle for cover and warned Lopez they would be forced to fire if he did not put his gun down. Lopez continued to approach the CHP officers, lowered his weapon, put his hand on the sliding mechanism of the gun to adjust it, and raised the gun a second time and pointed it at the officers.
CHP officers shot Lopez seven times before he dropped the weapon and was arrested. Later examination of Lopez’s gun showed that the slide mechanism of the gun had a fracture which made it difficult to pull back the firing pin and fire the gun. The gun was still capable of firing live rounds.
Lack of Insight and Threat to Public Safety
Since his incarceration, Lopez has continually denied he intended to kill the CHP officers despite telling other officers who responded to the scene that he was trying to kill the CHP officers. Jurors in Lopez’s trial also found that he intended to kill the CHP officers.
At the inmate’s last parole hearing on Aug. 28, 2009, the Panel denied Lopez parole for seven years deciding that he continued to pose a risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison. The Panel concluded that Lopez committed a crime in a “dispassionate, calculated manner as an execution style murder attempt. Lopez also has a history with a criminal street gang, displayed violent behavior during his time in jail, and failed to take responsibility for his actions.
In 2011, Lopez committed a prison rule violation for his willful participation in a gang related riot despite years of involvement in several self-help groups to learn how to avoid these types of altercations. The inmate denied responsibility of participating in the riot despite being found guilty.
The inmate continues to display violent behavior, denies responsibility for his actions, and associates with groups which place him in situations that raise his risk for violence. The inmate presents an unreasonable risk to public safety and therefore, will not be released.