On Saturday, Sept. 16, 17-year-old David Adrian Mendez Lopez will be laid to rest. His parents will say goodbye to a beloved son who was a senior at Howard High School and had dreams of becoming an engineer or a lawyer.
Mendez Lopez was shot and killed by police who had gone to his South Kelley Street home on Sept. 2 to answer a domestic dispute call.
In a Thursday statement from activist groups Concerned Citizens for Justice and Semillas TN, Mendez Lopez's parents rightfully questioned why their son was taken from them.
"From the time officers were called on the scene, it took a mere 45 minutes for the Chattanooga Police Department to make the decision to open fire on seventeen-year-old David Mendez Lopez," the news release stated. "Instead of calling a mental health counselor or a behavioral specialist to mediate and mitigate the situation, the CPD proceeded to shout from a bullhorn and deny the father access to David."
CPD first stated that Mendez Lopez had a gun once police went to the home.
But now, his parents are saying their son did not have a gun. He held a cellphone that he was using at the time to talk to his uncle.
"David's last words were 'Tio (Uncle), they are going to take me to jail and I will be made fun of,'" his family said in the statement.
This young man was in distress, and concerned family believed their best option to get him the help he needed was to call the police. This is a failure to provide a basic service we expect from police — de-escalate a situation — and an example of disregard for what it means to protect.
There should and must be accountability for this disservice.
Hold police accountable
This is the second police-involved killing in just four weeks, and yet there has been a significantly slow roll-out of information that could provide needed context to this shooting.
Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp has not released a statement because the case is under investigation by the TBI.
This is a stark contrast from the swift and cold comments Wamp made about the August police-involved shooting of 34-year-old Roger Heard Jr. that also is still under TBI investigation.
The shooting and killing of Heard took place on Aug. 11. Nine days later, on Aug. 20, the DA's office released gas station footage of the shooting.
In the case of Mendez Lopez's shooting, there has yet to be any video footage or audio released.
What made these cases different? Why the delay in releasing the video and/or audio in the Mendez Lopez incident? Does Wamp know more or less at this point that she cannot make statements as unequivocal as those she made about the Heard shooting? Has Police Chief Celeste Murphy met with the family and offered condolences?
Injustice wears a community down
Too many questions about the Mendez Lopez case are unanswered, and institutions sworn to protect and serve this community continue to be silent.
His family will try to make sense of this inconceivable, preventable loss. They will have to deal with the trauma of that night, of living in a home that has 25 bullet holes in it, reminders that their beloved is no longer with them.
Both of these tragic incidents erode any semblance of trust that communities, especially minority communities, have with law enforcement. If police want to solve their issues, such as a lack of diversity in the police force, they need to show that they are for communities, not against them.
Citizens who ask police to intervene in a situation should never have to think that use of deadly force is to be expected.
There is nothing tactical about responding to a call involving a 17-year-old boy in crisis and him ending up dead.
When someone in need dials 911, they put themselves in a vulnerable position. They are asking for a third party to come and provide the safest outcome to their situation. When that trust is broken, accountability is required.
"This cycle of the CPD murdering Black and Brown people without being held accountable is perpetuating more and more police murders," the statement from the advocacy groups said.
Mendez Lopez's death was a tragedy, and now a community wants answers. His family deserves them. So do we.