Greenwich Police Chief Steve Dorsey said Friday the June 1 traffic stop of murder suspects Misael Lopez and his brother, Hiram Emmanuel Lopez, could ultimately be the break the Huron County Sheriff’s Office needs to solve the case.
The Lopez brothers are the persons of interest in the stabbing death of Baseline Road resident Daniel Jacinto Hernandez.
Possibly, shortly after the Lopezes allegedly committed the Hernandez murder, they were stopped on Main Street for speeding by Greenwich Officer Aaron Smith at 12:30 a.m.
Members of the sheriff’s office have said if Smith followed normal protocol during a traffic stop, the Lopez brothers would have been arrested — even though Smith had no idea at the time he had stopped alleged murderers.
“Officer Smith could have been easily injured or killed by the two suspects,” Dorsey said. “What was the probable cause to detain them any longer? As far as Officer Smith (knew), it was a traffic stop for a speed violation, not a homicide that had not been reported yet.”
Dorsey provided Smith’s two-page report regarding the incident.
Smith indicated in the report he stopped the 2004 Dodge Stratus, owned by Hernandez, for traveling 8 mph more than the marked speed limit.
“The vehicle slowed down to a roll but did not come to a complete stop,” Smith said in the report. “The vehicle then idled to the side of the road and then started turning its wheels like it was going to pull back out, but then stopped.”
Smith observed the license plates to be from Virginia. The plate bracket contained a floral design.
“The back seat was empty and the car was clean as I shined the light through the windows to see,” Smith said.
“I approached the driver-side window and asked for license, registration and insurance,” Smith said. “The driver shook his head no.
“The passenger was turning his back towards me and pushing back into the corner of the seat next to the door like he was trying to hide behind the seat from me,” Smith added. “I asked him to sit forward but he ignored me. I asked the driver if he spoke English and he shook his head no. I observed what I thought to be blood on his left forearm. A smear about 1 inch by 3 inches.”
The driver’s English improve during the course of the traffic stop, the report indicated.
Smith then noted in the report the driver began flexing his muscles — almost preparing for a fight.
“I noticed his biceps as he had no sleeves on his shirt and observed him to be very fit and cut,” Smith said.
Smith then told the driver he would see if he could locate an interpreter for assistance.
Smith then stood in the dark by the passenger side of the cruiser so he could keep an eye on the two men.
“I radioed dispatch and asked for back-up,” he wrote, adding he was under the impression it would take 20 minutes for sheriff’s deputies to arrive.
Smith then asked the driver to exit their vehicle and he patted him down. Smith had the driver stand by the police cruiser and not move.
Smith then asked the passenger to exit the vehicle. He was reluctant at first.
Smith told the men he would take them to jail if they could not produce identification.
Dorsey noted Smith then was on vacation from June 3 to 13 and did not know Huron County had a homicide or that he had stopped the actual suspects that night.
“He learned of the homicide when the sheriff’s department called him on June 14,” he said. “Officer Smith called off back-up because they (suspects) started to be cooperative and speaking in English and produced a driver’s license.”
Dorsey said he’s OK with how the situation was handled.
“I look at it as a positive break that the sheriff’s department has received by Officer Smith’s traffic stop, to help solve the homicide case,” the chief said. “I am thankful that Officer Smith was not hurt or that he did not have to use deadly force to protect himself from a crime he had no knowledge about until June 14.”