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Durham police chief says he wasn't target in shooting

Posted April 30, 2010

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— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Friday that a Thursday afternoon incident in which his unmarked car was hit by gunfire doesn't mean the city is unsafe.

Lopez said he wasn't injured in the incident, which occurred near the intersection of South Roxboro and Dillard streets.

Chief: Despite shooting, Durham still safe Chief: Despite shooting, Durham still safe

He said he was headed to a leadership conference at the Durham County Detention Center when he heard a noise that he thought was a car backfiring. He quickly realized that someone hanging out of a nearby vehicle was firing a weapon.

"At that time I saw that, he was directly firing at me and then continued on," he said. "Subsequent to that, I tried to give chase to the vehicle."

Lopez chased the vehicle, described as a red van, for a block and a half before returning to the scene of the shooting and finding that the driver of a second car had been shot.

The man, whose name hasn't been released, was taken to Duke University Hospital for treatment. His condition was unknown Friday.

Although the chief was driving an unmarked car, he said he believes the shooter knew that he was a police officer.

"I don't think that he targeted me because I'm the chief of police," he said.

A bullet ripped through the passenger side of Lopez's windshield and lodged into an area above the visor. Nobody else was in the car, and Lopez was wearing his bullet-proof vest.

Lopez said he got a good look at the gunman and gave a description to investigators. He declined to provide the description to reporters.

He said he hopes the incident will encourage the community to take crime more seriously and come forward if they have information about the shooting. He also said he still thinks Durham is as safe as other cities.

"Durham is a very safe city. What happened is not something that is usual, that is common. This truly was an unusual situation," he said. "I think that the young man who fired at me had better odds of winning lotto than encountering the chief of police during a shootout."

No charges have been filed in the case.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

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  • supernik87 Apr 30, 2010

    Durham really isn't any more dangerous than any other city. I have lived, worked, and gone to school in Durham for 22 years and never seen it as a dangerous place. I spend a lot of time all over the city, day and night, and can say that as long as you are aware of your surroundings and stay out of trouble, you have little to worry about. Very rarely are innocent bystanders ever caught up in violent crime, and when they are it wasn't any more likely to happen then in other cities. People seem to forget that our crime rate has declined significantly over the past several years, though the media and outside public still tend to only focus on the bad things that happen here. Maybe if people actually come spend some time here, instead of just bashing it, they'll see that Durham has a lot to offer.

  • obs Apr 30, 2010

    "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." Mark Twain.

  • OakRapp Apr 30, 2010

    I've lived in Durham for 25 years and it's a heck of a lot safer than Raleigh. Last place I worked in Raleigh had to hire rent-a-cops to escort us to our cars at night after one of our employees was almost kidnapped at gunpoint in the parking lot.

  • starletta Apr 30, 2010

    "At that time I saw that, he was directly firing at me and then continued on," he said. Quote directly from article.

    So I am a bit confused. I guess I just don't get how someone could directly fire a gun at someone else and we just have to believe that the city is "safe"

    Also, he may not have been a "target" just because he is Chief of Police but he was a "direct target" nonetheless.

    Safe + Durham just does not add up.

  • we-r-just-human Apr 30, 2010

    "his unmarked car was hit by gunfire doesn't mean the city is unsafe." WHAT DOES IT MEAN THEN???????? I think ANY car getting hit by gunfire in ANY town means it's UNSAFE!!!! even Baghdad...

  • Fx432 Apr 30, 2010

    He thinks alot of Durham, can tell he hasn't been here long.

  • Big Mike Apr 30, 2010

    Hey, it's Durham. Great place to live, work, and play..just wear your body armor when driving, and you'll be fine.

  • alwayz2morrow Apr 30, 2010

    he could have called in help for the person who was shot at the scene. I wonder why he didn't keep pursuing the shooter? was the "Chief" not ready for a western John Wayne style shootout and opted to flee instead of seek to immediately get this criminal off the street?

  • mulecitybabe Apr 30, 2010

    No, Durham's not unsafe. Why would anybody think that? Just because people are shooting at the CHIEF OF POLICE, why would that mean that ordinary citizens are at risk? (heavy sarcasm)

  • emtp2k Apr 30, 2010

    Doesn't mean his city is unsafe.

    That's is the funniest thing I have ever heard about Durham. If he thinks it's a safe place to be, let him walk in plane clothes at night in many areas of Durham and let him see what happens.