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Mother of Texas man killed by officer wants answers

Baltimore County police had received reports of suspicious people in a Dundalk neighborhood when they stopped Joshua Michael Lopez, who they said fit the description.

That seemingly routine stop ended with Lopez, 22, dead after police said he scuffled with the officers, leaving the family of the Navy quartermaster assigned to a ship docked in Norfolk wondering how and why police shot and killed the unarmed man.

The family is in a "bit of a shock, trying to find answers. Everything is just up in the air. We have no clue" how he died, said Lopez's mother, Tosha, who lives in Texas. She said she does not believe her son had any reason to confront officers.

She said she had spoken to him on the phone hours before his death and he told her he was on his way to Maryland to drive his roommate home. She said he told her he had to return to Norfolk, where he was assigned to the USS Vella Gulf, and had to report for duty early Sunday morning.

But when officers stopped Lopez after receiving calls for reports of a suspicious person near Seaside Road and Dunmanway, police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said, he was found with a backpack with a screwdriver, power cords and a vehicle registration from a car that had been broken into.

Inside the vehicle he was driving, Batton said, investigators found "a significant amount of electronic equipment." Investigators "believed it was tied to other vehicles," she said.

When the officers stopped to question Lopez, police said, he became combative and was holding a large metal flashlight, Batton said. The officers tried to restrain him, but police said Lopez struggled with one of the them and tugged at his gun belt, attempting to take his weapon.

Officer Jacob Heins used pepper spay on Lopez, who continued to fight with the officers, so Heins pulled out his weapon, shot Lopez, killing him, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Batton said Lopez did not have a weapon on him.

Police had received a initial calls for multiple suspicious people in the area, but Batton said Lopez was the only person officers found. No other suspects have been identified, but she said the investigation is continuing. She said investigators are still working "to identify the owners and what types of crimes the suspect committed that day."

Lopez's mother said her son had recently returned to Texas for two weeks while he was on leave. She said that he did not have a criminal record and that he was engaged to be married in November, after which he and his wife were going to buy a house together.

"Our local authorities showed up," she said, "All my other kids are accounted for. They ask you, 'May we come in?' They ask you if you have another son. All I could think of was he got into a car accident, not that he got profiled."

She said the family is continuing to make arrangements for his funeral. They plan to bury him in Texas.

Lopez said the family is trying to see if another agency will review the investigation, possibly a private investigator.

"I have to have more answers," she said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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