Cop had murder suspects in custody -- then let them go
Jul 7, 2013 at 12:27 PM
A pair of men wanted for questioning in the murder of a Baseline Road man were reportedly last seen in Greenwich, possibly moments after they allegedly killed 24-year-old Daniel Jacinto Hernandez.
Greenwich Police Officer Aaron Smith stopped Misael Lopez and Hiram Emmanuel Lopez, who are brothers, for speeding on Main Street in the village at about 12:30 a.m. June 1, according to information and phone and radio calls obtained from the Huron County Sheriff's Office through a public records request.
The Lopez brothers are the suspects in the stabbing death of Hernandez, whose body was found June 2 in the Baseline Road apartment he shared with the Lopez brothers. Investigators have stated they believe Hernandez may have been dead for two days before being found by a farm field boss.
According to reports, one of the Lopez brothers' arms was covered in blood at the traffic stop, while the other brother was trying to conceal himself between the passenger seat and door of the 2004 Dodge Stratus they were driving with Virginia plates, which belonged to Hernandez, the murder victim.
Deputies learned of the Greenwich traffic stop when detectives ran a Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) search for any agency nationwide which might have stopped the vehicle, and the Greenwich incident popped up.
"Greenwich police had stopped that car and ran that plate," Detective Sgt. Josh Querin said Thursday.
Sheriff Dane Howard said no one from Greenwich police contacted the HCSO about the traffic stop.
"This whole thing is quite bizarre," Howard said.
Greenwich Chief Steve Dorsey and Smith are both out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.
"The driver advised he had just gotten off work at Wiers Farm," Querin said. "The officer did not ID the two individuals."
Reports stated the officer did not run a driver's license check on either of the Lopezes.
One of Smith's calls from the scene to the HCSO dispatch requested deputy backup. Later in the call, Smith called off the backup, saying deputies were not needed.
Deputy Shannon Lyons and Sgt. Chuck Summers were just a short distance away before being called off.
According to a Greenwich police report, the vehicle was stopped for speeding.
"They didn't stop right away, which is a red flag," Chief Deputy Ted Patrick said.
Patrick said he didn't want to second-guess the work of Smith, but did talk about normal protocol at a traffic stop.
"You ask for positive ID and proof of insurance," he said. "Then, you look for indicators like if you smell alcohol and see alcohol."
There was an excessive amount of beer and liquor observed at the Baseline Road crime scene, the sheriff said.
"First, the vehicle had Virginia plates and second, the two were acting very suspiciously," Patrick said.
"And, there was no hurry, because you had already called for help," he added.
Patrick said reports show the officer told the Lopez brothers if they could produce an ID, he'd let them go.
At one point, as noted in the radio call, Smith had one of the Lopezes in custody in the back of the cruiser.
Upon hearing this, the sheriff had the Greenwich police cruiser towed to the sheriff's office nearly two weeks after the incident, something he said he can't recall happening in his 29 years of law enforcement.
The cruiser was searched for evidence, such as the victim's blood, by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
"There was some evidence collected and sent to the lab and we are awaiting results," Howard said.
If the victim's blood is found, murder warrants can be issued for the Lopez brothers. Currently, they are wanted on a warrant for theft of a motor vehicle.
So, overall, maybe some good can come from this event, the sheriff said.
"We sure hope so," Howard said.