Two Antioch police officers shot and killed a wanted parolee earlier this year after he appeared to drive his car toward one of the officers, the officers said at a coroner’s inquest in Martinez this morning. Officers Matthew Koch and Joshua Vincelet testified this morning that they were working on an undercover burglary operation the afternoon of March 22 when they spotted Antioch resident David John Lopez, 26, who was wanted for an alleged parole violation.
Both officers said they noticed Lopez driving erratically in a Ford Focus. The officers, who were in an unmarked rental car, followed Lopez as drove with a woman passenger toward a shopping center parking lot. After losing sight of Lopez briefly, the officers spotted the car leaving a McDonald’s drive-through and heading onto Hillcrest Avenue. During the pursuit, both policemen noticed the suspect glancing at them in his rear-view mirrors, talking with his passenger and constantly fidgeting, Koch and Vincelet testified.
Vincelet testified that he decided not to stop Lopez because he had noticed the suspect examining what appeared to be a potentially fraudulent personal check and wanted to see if he would stop somewhere and attempt to use it. The officers then followed the suspect to a home at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and East 13th Street, where Lopez pulled into the driveway. Once there, Vincelet identified himself as a police officer and yelled to Lopez to shut off his car, he testified.
The officer said he had already met with Lopez on multiple occasions, including an arrest a couple of months earlier. His passenger, 25-year-old Michelle Garcia, got out of the car, but Lopez looked directly at the officers and accelerated rapidly, reversing his car down the driveway toward the officers’ vehicle, where Koch was standing, both officers testified. Fearing that he would run Koch over, both officers fired several rounds at Lopez, whose car came to a stop against a curb.
Vincelet then arrested Garcia for a misdemeanor warrant and additional Antioch police officers arrived “in seconds”, he said. Officers performed emergency aid on Lopez, but the 26-year-old later succumbed to his wounds at a hospital. Dr. Arnold Josselson, a forensic pathologist who examined Lopez’ remains, testified that the Antioch man was shot six times and was ultimately killed by a bullet wound through his brain.
Lopez also had a moderate amount of methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, he testified. Koch, one of the officers involved in the shooting, is still an Antioch police officer in good standing, according to Antioch police Lt. Diane Aguinaga. Vincelet has since left the department and now works as a police officer in Newport Beach, he testified.
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