Woman surrenders to DPD after police shooting

Posted at 5:57 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 19:57:16-05

The person of interest wanted in the shooting of a Denver Police officer, Melinda Espinoza, has turned herself into police.

Law enforcement officers have been searching for Espinoza since Tuesday afternoon. She is believed to have been in the car with the driver suspected of shooting officer Tony Lopez, Jr.

Lopezwas shot in an arm and both legs after stopping a driver on Federal Boulevard near 38th Avenue. A bulletproof vest protected him from shots to his torso. Lopez remained in critical condition Wednesday.

Saunier said Lopez was able to tell the initial responders that one suspect was a white man with some tattoos and the second suspect was a heavyset, white or Hispanic female. That is woman police released the photo of Wednesday morning, before the surrender. Police said they want to talk to Espinoza because she may have information about the shooting.

Police haven't said which charges Espinoza may face. Her criminal history includes shoplifting and forgery charges in the 90s. She served two years in community corrections for the forgery case. In 2001, there was an escape from a felony conviction, and then a vehicle theft in 2007.

Saunier said the man was taken into custody with a gunshot wound to his leg. At this point, police are not releasing the man's name or mug shot, while they wait for photo line-ups.

Saunier said the man has a long and significant arrest record including an arrest for homicide, possession of a weapon by a felon and other crimes. There was currently an arrest warrant for the man in a home invasion and robbery.

-- Shooting happened during traffic stop -- 

Saunier said Lopez ran a license plate at 11:19 a.m. Lopez told dispatchers he was making a routine traffic stop at 11:21 a.m.

Two minutes later, he was able to radio that he had been shot and was requesting an ambulance "code 10."

Denver7 sources say bullets struck Lopez twice in the left leg, once in the right knee and twice in an arm.

Saunier said investigators don't know why Lopez stopped the car.

"At this point, we're not sure what transpired between 11:21 and 11:23 that led up to the shooting," DPS spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Saunier said witnesses told investigators that the driver got out and started shooting.

"He almost immediately, after the stop, came out of his car, based on what witnesses are saying, firing at the officer," Saunier said. "I would say based on the fact that the stop's called out and…almost immediately the officer's already calling out that he was shot, that this was an immediate action that took off."

"We believe Officer Lopez returned fire," Saunier said.

The suspect drove off, but police said the driver abandoned the vehicle a couple blocks away and carjacked a woman at the U.S. Bankat 3400 W. 38th. 

Two alert officers on the scene saw the vehicle leaving at a high rate of speed, Saunier said.

A chase was authorized and the vehicle was stopped near 20th and Chestnut, near Coors Field, and a man was taken into custody.

Officers said that suspect had a gunshot wound in the leg and was taken to the hospital.

Denver7 sources say police found an AK-47 in the carjacked vehicle. Saunier confirmed officers recovered more weapons and ammunition. Saunier said investigators are trying to determine which guns were registered to the suspect.


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