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A dangerous fugitive eludes authorities in Northern California

Arthur Lopez Jr.

Arthur Lopez Jr.

The south side of Milwaukee was home to a gang of drug dealers known as the Lopez Family. They owned seven houses in a two-block radius and used the location as headquarters for their drug empire. Anyone who got in their way had to face Arthur, the Lopez family’s hit man. When a rival gang called the Latin Kings tried to move in on their territory, a turf war erupted.

Carlos Hernandez was once a member of the Latin Kings. But according to his family, Carlos had recently left the gang and turned his life around. Gustavo Hernandez is Carlos’ brother:

“He had seen drive-bys, and he started to see how very rarely do they hit their intended target. They’ll hit innocent bystanders, kids playing on their bikes in front of their houses. He knew there was a possibility that it could happen to anybody, and he felt it would be best   if he got out of the gang and turned it around and really tried to help the neighborhood come back to what it was once before.”

Carlos organized a youth basketball league and worked for a city organization that helps kids stay out of gangs. Det. Dave Klabunde of the Milwaukee Police Department described Carlos’ role in the organization:   

“A major part of his job was to try and mediate problems between the gangs in that particular area. The Lopez family had come to Mr. Hernandez with a problem with the Latin Kings over territory.”

Lopez was told to kill Carlos Hernandez

Lopez was told to kill Carlos Hernandez

Police believe that Carlos tried to end the gang turf war, but was unsuccessful. So the hit man, Arthur Lopez, was told by the Lopez family to “take care of” Carlos. According to witnesses, Arthur Lopez and several family members surrounded the building where Carlos worked. According to Det. Klabunde, the gang had a predetermined code that would be broadcast over a radio when Carlos was spotted:

“The code was: ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.’ And that code was put out when Mr. Hernandez left from his business to his vehicle.”

Authorities believe that around 4:30 pm, Arthur Lopez Jr. was alerted with the code. He put on a mask, hopped on a bike, and pedaled toward his unsuspecting target. Carlos was hit by eight bullets and died instantly in his car.

Though Arthur Lopez Jr. was the prime suspect in the killing of Carlos Hernandez, police had little evidence against him. Then Arthur made what seemed to be a small mistake. He got himself arrested for driving without a license. It would be the beginning of the end for the Lopez Family. While being processed at the police station, Arthur’s father, Arturo, showed up at the station and asked why his son was being harassed. Arturo was second in command of the Lopez gang.   Det. Klabunde said that Arturo was enraged:

“Arturo Lopez demanded the release of his son and threatened to return with a firearm and to kill all the police officers who were involved in Arthur Lopez Jr.’s arrest.”

Lopez was a violent gang member

Lopez was a violent gang member

Arthur could not be held on the traffic charge and was released. But his father, Arturo, was arrested and convicted of threatening a police officer. Arturo was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Det. Klabunde said it was the chance police were looking for:

“While Arturo Lopez was in prison, he made daily phone calls to his son and other members of the Lopez family, basically directing the continued narcotics distribution activities of the Lopez gang. All of these phone calls that were made by Arturo Lopez were recorded by the prison phone system, so there are recorded copies of all the conversations from both ends of the telephone.”

As authorities continued to build their case against the Lopez gang, there was another outburst of violence. According to witnesses, Arthur again played a key role. A known member of the Latin Kings named Maximillano Castillo and his girlfriend, Vanessa Rivas, returned home after a quick trip to the grocery store unaware that they were being followed.   Police believe that the driver following them was Arthur and that his passenger was another Lopez gang member named Luis Acevedo. Luis confronted Max and began shooting. Vanessa, a completely innocent bystander and just 15 years old, couldn’t escape the hail of bullets. Asst. District Attorney of Milwaukee County, David Robles, described the trauma:

“We know that Vanessa Rivas was hit once in the side. The bullet did a lot of damage, and she basically bled to death. Mr. Castillo was struck a number of times, at least three times, by the bullets fired by Mr. Acevedo. And he also died from his injuries.”

Authorities used Arturo’s taped phone calls from jail and eyewitness testimony of the shooting to obtain arrest warrants for Arthur and the rest of the Lopez family. A task force moved in to put the Lopez gang out of business for good. With a warrant secured, the police raided the homes of the Lopez family, seizing large stashes of guns, drugs, and cash. Eight people were arrested, finally ending the family’s crime wave.

Only one Lopez family member managed to escape the citywide dragnet: Arthur. Carol’s Hernandez’s brother wants him brought to justice:

“He’s got to pay.   He’s hurt so many people, families, and he’s a coward. He’s hiding. We need to get him off the streets.”

Update:

Arthur Lopez has finally been captured and American officials have petitioned for his return. We will bring you more information as this story develops.