SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: Days after this story aired, San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus visited Lopez’s home to apologize and presented him with a check for $700. Lopez said he has mixed feelings. Read more.
Within minutes, Eduardo Lopez’s life was turned upside down.
The self-employed contractor was at home with his family on a day off from his remodeling job when San Antonio police knocked on his door with a warrant for his arrest on Dec. 8.
The officers told him he was wanted in a week-old hit-and-run case that happened about five miles from his West Side home.
Lopez said he told the officers that they must be mistaken but that he didn’t want to escalate the situation, particularly because his kids were at home. Officers told him they would take him to speak to the detective and that he’d “be back in no time,” Lopez said in an interview with KSAT on Friday.
Instead, they charged him with two felony counts of failure to stop and render aid and took him to the Bexar County Jail. His bail was set at $15,000, court records show.
Lopez, 48, said he didn’t have the money for bail. So he scraped together the cash he had saved for his four son’s Christmas gifts and asked a friend for a loan. He paid a bondsman $1,500 to cover the bail so he could be released the next day.
Lopez said that he was embarrassed when he saw local news outlets, including KSAT, cover the arrest, citing court and police records. There, Lopez found out more about the case he was charged in.
On Dec. 2, police were called to the scene of a crash in the 3700 block of Fredericksburg and De Chantle Road. The driver of a 2005 black Ford F-150 failed to yield and turned left in front of a silver sedan, causing the cars to collide and spin out, according to San Antonio police.
Witnesses told police the driver of the pickup walked over to the sedan and looked inside before walking away from the scene, leaving his keys to the vehicle in the front seat.
An investigation into the pickup showed the insurance was expired but was listed under an “Eduardo Lopez,” an officer wrote in the affidavit.
When he returned to work the next day, Lopez found out he’d been fired. He turned all of his energy toward clearing his name.
He contacted SAPD, the detective assigned to his case, KSAT’s newsroom and even tried to contact Chief William McManus.
Lopez waited outside the office of the detective who was assigned his case for hours to speak with him.
Lopez said he told the detective he doesn’t own a black pickup truck that was left at the scene and is the primary evidence in the case. He said that the keys left in the pickup wouldn’t unlock the doors of his home, and he offered phone records to clear himself.
The detective explained to Lopez that he looked him up in a driver’s license check, and found that he matched the same description as the driver involved in the crash. The eyewitness also identified Lopez in a photo lineup, according to the affidavit. But the detective said he would look into it.
“If he would have done his homework... he got mad at me a bunch of times because I told him, ‘You should have investigated better before putting me in a photo lineup,’” Lopez said. “He ruined my life, he ruined our holidays.”
On Monday, nearly a week after his arrest, Lopez received a voicemail.
“This is Detective Davis, San Antonio police,” he said. “It turns out there is another Eduardo Lopez that may exist, however, he is from Mexico. There’s no information on him, no records for him or anything like that.”
The detective said the suspect did have the same name and a similar physical description, but that he no longer “has probable cause” tying Lopez to the case.
“I’m going to call the DA today and find out how I get your name cleared so we can get you back to work,” the detective said.
On Thursday, the charges against Lopez were officially dropped, court records show.
But the wrongful arrest left Lopez without a job and a drained savings account. Now, he’s calling on the city to make things right.
“I don’t have a job. I don’t have no money coming in,” Lopez said. “San Antonio PD is like ... the Grinch that stole Christmas.”
After reviewing the voicemail from the detective, KSAT immediately removed its story on the arrest and reached out to SAPD for information.
San Antonio police have declined to comment beyond a written statement: “We are able to confirm that the case you’re referencing is an active investigation.” The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request from KSAT.
Lopez says he still “loves” San Antonio police, that one of his sons is in the department’s Police Explorer program, but that he is hoping the department recognizes the mistake.
On Friday, Lopez said a lieutenant called to apologize about the wrongful arrest and said he’d do his best to try and help him.
Read more on KSAT.com:
Black jogger detained by SAPD wasn’t suspect they were looking for. Now he’s charged with felony assault on officers.