LAS VEGAS — A man who authorities say fatally shot his mother two days after Christmas led police officers on a chase through the suburbs of Las Vegas and, along the way, stole a police vehicle and carjacked bystanders at gunpoint, shooting and killing one of them.
The victim killed in what Las Vegas police say was the final carjacking was 39-year-old Jerry Lopez, a married father of seven children between the ages of 3 and 11.
Karen Lopez told The Associated Press that her husband had just left for work around 4 a.m. and was minutes away from their home in southwestern Las Vegas when he unknowingly entered the suspect’s path and was killed.
According to police, the deadly crime spree began before dawn Wednesday, when the suspect shot his mother near his childhood home in southeastern Las Vegas. When officers arrived to investigate that shooting, they heard more gunfire and took cover.
At the same time, police said, the suspect stole an unoccupied patrol car and fled toward the southwestern edge of the city. Authorities haven’t identified the suspect, his slain mother or a motive for the shooting.
About 8 miles west of his parents’ home, police said, the suspect abandoned the patrol car and carjacked two more bystanders before crossing paths with Jerry Lopez.
Karen Lopez said her husband was in the wrong place at the wrong time, having pulled over the family van he was driving for the emergency vehicles that were pursuing the suspect.
Police said the suspect approached the van, opened fire on the driver, then dragged his body out of the vehicle. As the suspect took off, police officers fired multiple rounds into the stolen van, which came to a stop a short time later.
Capt. Joshua Martinez said SWAT officers approached the stolen van after the suspect stopped moving inside the vehicle and discovered he was dead. Martinez said that officers had shot at the suspect at least twice during the chase but did not say whether the suspect was killed by police gunfire.
Martinez said the department planned to release more information at a news conference in the coming days.
In the meantime, Karen Lopez said she and her children are trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy: The 11-year-old keeps texting his father’s phone to tell him how much he loves him. One of the 5-year-olds is angry that he hasn’t yet seen a photo of his dad in heaven.
Married for 13 years, Karen and Jerry Lopez fostered 12 children since 2017. Six of the kids returned to their biological parents. They adopted the other six, making their 11-year-old biological son a big brother to two sisters and four brothers.
“He was such an amazing father to our kids,” Karen Lopez said. “He would just walk through the door after work, throw his stuff down and just jump right in it with the kids, not even taking two minutes to himself.”
That’s what she wants her husband to be remembered for, she said — his devotion to his family, and not the way he died.