The unnamed suspect accused of shooting a Denver police officer has a violent criminal past and according to police, he should not have been in possession of a gun.
“He has been charged in the past with being a felon in possession of a gun, so yes, by law he should not have been in possession of a weapon or ammunition. That will be additional charges that we are looking at,” said Commander Ron Saunier, Major Crimes Division.
Denver Police still won’t say how many shots were fired during the shootout between the officer and suspect. Officer Tony Lopez Jr. was conducting a traffic stop when the shooting happened. Radio traffic indicates the suspect fired shots almost immediately after being pulled over. Police still don’t know what prompted Officer Lopez to pull over the driver.
Police have released few other details about the man. The 36-year-old accused of shooting the police officer remained in a Denver hospital Thursday night.
Denver7 is not identifying the suspect at this time because police have asked the news media to not publish his name or photograph to avoid tainting witness photo line-ups that have not been completed.
However, Denver7 reporter Jaclyn Allen spoke to the suspect's grandfather, who said he was not surprised about the accusations.
"Yeah, I think he done it [sic]. He was capable of doing it," said the grandfather, who did not want to be identified. "He had borrowed his mother's SUV that morning. It was the car he was pulled over in. She still doesn't have it back."
He said his grandson had never had any guidance, but that he deserves to be back behind bars.
"Why it was a routine traffic stop and then he opened up on this cop I have no idea," he said. "I’m just sorry that cop got shot — and I hope he makes it, and I hope he don’t lose his leg."
The suspect is in police custody at Denver Health Medical Center on an investigative hold for attempted murder of a peace officer and robbery in the shooting case, according to court and jail records.
At the time of the mid-Tuesday shooting in west Denver, police say the suspect was wanted on an arrest warrant for a home-invasion robbery in Denver. He's also being held on investigation of aggravated robbery for a Sept. 30 incident that is likely the home-invasion robbery, according to court records.
Police said it appears the gunman opened fire moments after Officer Lopez pulled over the man's vehicle during a traffic stop at Federal Boulevard and Clyde Place.
"[The gunman] almost immediately after the stop came out of his car, based on what witnesses are saying, firing at the officer," Saunier said at a Wednesday news conference.
Saunier added indications that the officer was ambushed are "based on the fact" that moments after the officer radioed that he was making the traffic stop "almost immediately the officer's already calling out that he was shot."
The evidence suggests "this was an immediate action that took off," Saunier said. Investigators believe that Officer Lopez returned fire, hitting the gunman in the leg.
At some point, the officer radios that a female suspect had fled from the vehicle during the shootout.
"We believe the gun that he was using during this shooting was a handgun. Like I said [the gunman -- he fired multiple times," Saunier said. "We did recover additional weapons out of the vehicle that he abandoned and additional ammunition."
Saunier said the suspected gunman "has a very significant arrest record."
Denver7's review of court and arrest records found the suspect has a violent criminal history:
September 1997 -- He's arrested by Northglenn police for homicide, aggravated assault with a gun. The investigation must have been dropped because there's no court record of him being charged.
November 1997 -- He's again arrested in Northglenn for residential burglary and felony theft. He pleads guilty to the lesser charge of criminal trespass and is sentenced to 18 months in the Department of Corrections.
September 1998 -- He's arrested in Lafayette for felony assault and felony menacing with a deadly weapon. In January 1999, he pleads guilty to the lesser offense of misdemeanor assault and is sentenced 90 days in jail.
May 1999 -- He's accused of escaping from a felony conviction in Adams County. He pleads guilty to attempted escape and is sentenced to 1 year in the Department of Corrections.
November 1999 -- He's arrested in Northglenn for carrying a concealed weapon and reporting false identification information to authorities. He pleads guilty to perjury and is sentenced to six months in jail.
October 2001 -- He's arrested in Denver for parole violation and returned to the Department of Corrections in April 2002.
March 2002 -- He's arrested in Denver for obstructing police, resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon and driving with license under restraint. He pleads no contest -- which legally carries the same weight as a guilty plea -- and is sentenced to 30 days in jail.
March 2002 -- He's arrested by Commerce City police for kidnapping and felony menacing. He pleads guilty to menacing in March 2003 and is sentenced to 15 months in the Department of Corrections.
June 2011 -- He's arrested in Westminster for weapon possession by a previous offender and weapon offense/reckless with gun. He pleads guilty to the lesser offense of misdemeanor illegal weapon possession and is sentenced to one year of probation.
Sept. 30, 2015 – Home-invasion robbery in Denver. The suspect faces an aggravated robbery in that case.
Dec. 8, 2015 – Officer Tony Lopez Jr. is repeatedly shot during a traffic stop on Federal Boulevard. The suspect faces attempted murder of a peace officer and robbery charges in connection with the shooting of the officer and a later carjacking that day.