U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez.

U.S. Army/Courtesy

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez.

Defense speaks in Lopez case

Attorney says 2 suspects were not aggressors in downtown fight

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The attorney for two men considered suspects in the death of Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez said Wednesday that Lopez and his friends were the aggressors in the fatal confrontation earlier this month.

Steamboat Springs attorney Charles Feldmann identified his clients only as "Eddie" and "David," two Florida brothers in their early 20s. The two were unaware Lopez had been injured when they took off running from the fight just after midnight Jan. 2 and left downtown in a taxi with their wife and girlfriend, Feldmann said.

"They didn't know he was injured at all. They were shocked and horrified when they found out what happened to him," Feldmann said. "They absolutely never saw him hit his head."

Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Gerard Geis said Jan. 2 that people were seen fleeing the scene at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue when officers arrived to respond to multiple 911 calls. Police also said Lopez was unconscious in the street when they arrived on scene.

Charges have not been filed against the suspects. The Steamboat Springs Police Department continues to investigate Lopez's death as a homicide.

Lopez, 37, passed away Jan. 5 at a Denver hospital, three days after the fight.

"The family, my clients are just very traumatized by what happened to them in Steamboat Springs," Feldmann said. "They're devastated that somebody of such a caliber as Sgt. Lopez was hurt in any way, let alone passed away later. They're just devastated."

The two suspects were vacationing in Steamboat Springs during the New Year's holiday with family and friends, Feldmann said. The brothers went to The Tap House on the night of Jan. 1, along with Eddie's wife and David's girlfriend.

Police have said the two men got into an argument with Lopez and two of his friends, Timothy and Wesley Mottlau, over song selections on the jukebox. Lopez was vacationing with his son and the Mottlaus, who originally are from Steamboat. Timothy Mottlau is in the Navy and now lives in Norfolk, Va., and his brother is in the Army and lives in Fayetteville, N.C.

Lopez, a recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at North Carolina's Fort Bragg.

In a news release e-mailed to the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Wednesday, Feldmann said his clients and their female companions "attempted to flee the increasingly hostile environment at the Tap House, where patrons were beginning to take and place bets on the brewing altercation with three physically imposing and highly trained members of our Armed Forces."

Feldmann also said his clients were "cornered and attacked" outside the front entrance of The Tap House shortly after midnight.

A co-owner of The Tap House said Jan. 5 that the two groups of men were escorted out of the bar through separate exits once their disagreement began to escalate.

Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae declined to comment on Feldmann's version of the events Wednesday, but he did confirm investigators are not seeking charges against anyone involved except the men represented by Feldmann.

"We are not basing our investigation on what four individuals have said to a defense attorney, nor are we giving any weight to a defense attorney's tactical strategy," Rae said. "Our investigation is based on every aspect of this case, including interviews of all the witnesses, suspects, victims, peripheral witnesses and physical evidence. In the end, we are confident that justice will be served."

Feldmann maintained that his clients acted only to protect themselves and the two women they were with.

Lopez was unconscious in the crosswalk across Seventh Street at Lincoln Avenue when police arrived at about 12:15 a.m. Jan. 2. He was transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center and later was airlifted to Denver Health Medical Center.

Lopez's preliminary autopsy results showed he took two hits - one to the face, one to the jaw - before suffering a severe blow from an unprotected fall to the back of his head.

The Mottlaus also were taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center after the fight with cuts and bruises. Feldmann said his clients sustained minor injuries that did not require treatment.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

aichempty 5 years, 7 months ago

They train us to kill, and then trust us to know when to do it.

This is a plain old tragedy for everyone involved.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

aich - What? You're trained killer is the deceased.

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bubba 5 years, 7 months ago

Is 'he started it' a legitimate defense when a man has died?

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Matthew Stoddard 5 years, 7 months ago

Bubba- I believe it IS a defense. If a person happens to be the aggressor (if truly so, in this instance) in a situation and that person dies because I was protecting myself, I'd be claiming self-defense. We'll see what happens, though. Very sad case based on something so childish as a jukebox song.

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cityworker 5 years, 7 months ago

Yeah...sad it is, but there are things that aren't matching up. The true "you started" person's were the young linebacker sized men that RAN from the scene. They started it when they ripped the Buffet song. What were they runnig from or to? No one saw this? The taxi driver? NO, because there wasn't a taxi. Have you ever tried to get a taxi that time of night? The best part is that Alpine Taxi has a computer system and a driver/dispatch system that records dispatch times and Run Times. That defense will fail! You know you saw him drop to the ground and hit his head when you tried to keep attacking him? Correct? Why don't you fools come out and show your faces and apologize to the Lopez family and our community. Lopez died of trauma to the back of his head due to the knock out punches these men landed that caused the fall.

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aichempty 5 years, 7 months ago

Nobody is a winner in a situation like this. I wish they'd all walked away from the confrontation.

Self defense is a defense in court, but "necessary force" is the variable. "He started it," may work, but only if "he gave me no choice." That's when the DA and possibly a jury get to decide. The law allows you to use necessary force to protect yourself or others, but you have to be responsible for what you do. Sucks, huh?

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree with cityworker! eddie and david were attacked so severely they didn't even have to go to the hospital!??? these people SHOULD be devistated now that they are sober and realize someone died because of a song! i wonder why when they were questioned the next day, nobody was arrested on assault? just "thanks for your time and have a nice flight home"??????

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toboyle105 5 years, 7 months ago

Everyone wants to believe it must have been the trained killer who got what he deserved and Bevis and Butthead were just trying to stay alive.

But the alleged urinater was booked into county.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 7 months ago

toboyle105....huh?please enlighten me on your last comment

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

Cityworker - Were you there?

And, in one of the first articles, the ex-wife stated that the friends of Lopez had told her that he went to confront them after they continued to raz him outside.

That sure may be enough for a solid self defense case. Especially, if the special forces comments came out earlier in the evening. Somebody with those skills coming at you......The logical reaction may be to take your best shot at him and then take off running.

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Sara Gleason 5 years, 7 months ago

Hey, someone died here. None of us know the whole story, and probably never will. I still think that the comments, by anyone who thinks they know or by people involved in the case, including attorneys, (btw, trying to taint the jury pool on purpose to encourage a change of venue?), are in pretty bad taste. Maybe we should all hold judgement until justice has had its say and just worry a little more about ourselves than a tragic event that has no doubt changed more than one life for the worse.

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