Local News

Durham police chief says he wasn't target in shooting

Posted April 30, 2010 4:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2010 6:51 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.