Olathe police chief loses fingertip to suspect’s bite

Francisco Lopez. (Montrose County Sheriff's Office)

Calling the man accused of biting off the Olathe police chief’s fingertip a “grave danger” to the community, members of law enforcement on Thursday asked for an elevated bond to be set.

The suspect, Francisco Lopez, appeared for his hearing by video link and repeatedly interrupted speakers with at times caustic remarks until Montrose County Judge Ben Morris ordered deputies to cut off his microphone.

Olathe Police Chief Rogelio Pacheco was injured while arresting Lopez on Wednesday, after Lopez allegedly menaced his own father and terrorized a sibling. Thursday, Pacheco stood before the court with his right middle finger heavily bandaged.

In asking for a high-dollar bond, the chief cited “the level of extreme violence to law enforcement” and how Lopez’s family feared him.

“He’s just out of control,” Pacheco said.

Lopez is suspected of first-degree assault because of the severity of Pacheco’s injury. He is also suspected of felony menacing for allegedly coming at his father with a knife at a Main Street address in Olathe, and of criminal mischief, child abuse and resisting arrest.

Because he allegedly also began spitting in the patrol car that was taking him to jail, and hit Montrose County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sam Gall’s sleeve, Lopez was also booked on suspicion of second-degree assault. The two cases are likely to be combined, it was said in court.

On Wednesday morning, Pacheco responded to reports that Lopez was armed with a knife and arguing with his father over the discipline of a child in the home.

According to an arrest affidavit, the child later told officers that Lopez had tried to kick her several times and threatened beat her with an object. Lopez’s father told him it wasn’t his place to discipline the girl; Lopez then allegedly picked up a knife the child had been using to prepare food and tried to stab his father with it.

The affidavit says the older man spoke calmly to Lopez, who lowered the knife, and the child then called police.

When Pacheco arrived on scene, Lopez reportedly came toward him and refused to stop when told to do so. Pacheco deployed his Taser to little effect, but was able to get Lopez handcuffed.

Lopez’s arrest affidavit says Lopez continued fighting with the chief and during the fracas also kicked the patrol unit, causing more than $1,000-worth of damage.

Pacheco took Lopez to the ground, where the struggle continued and Lopez allegedly bit off the end of Pacheco’s fingertip.

The chief again attempted to gain compliance by firing his Taser, again to little effect.

As Pacheco struggled, Roland Hutson, who serves as the town’s mayor and on the Olathe Fire Department, arrived and helped the chief keep Lopez on the ground until backup arrived.

Deputy Dominic Lovato, school resource officer at Olathe Middle/High School, heard radio traffic about the incident and was the first to arrive. He was joined by other deputies and Olathe police officers.

Lopez was detained and placed into Gall’s vehicle to be taken to jail. Gall said in an affidavit, and again in court, that Lopez made several derogatory and crude statements about Pacheco and law enforcement, including a statement about them getting what they deserve, which he reportedly repeated while making the trip to jail.

“During his transport, Francisco again made statements about getting what you deserve, all while continuing to spit on me or my patrol vehicle,” Gall wrote in an affidavit.

In court Thursday, as Gall told Morris about how Lopez was spitting at him in the patrol car, Lopez blurted out: “I had blood in my mouth.”

As Gall continued making the case for having elevated bail, Lopez called out: “Freedom of speech.”

The judge issued a warning. “You’re not helping yourself. You might want to keep your mouth shut during this part of the hearing,” Morris said.

Lopez again spoke over Gall, using the words “abuse of power,” and went on to interrupt Lovato’s later address to the court, repeating words he allegedly said at the scene Wednesday: “You get what you deserve.”

At that point, Morris ordered deputies to mute Lopez’s microphone.

“Every action has a reaction,” Lopez called out before the sound could be cut.

“It sure does,” Morris responded. “You’re about to find that out.”

Lovato said he’s had numerous other contacts with Lopez, all involving violence, and that Lopez often threatens other people. The concern is that if Lopez could post bail, he might go after his own family or Pacheco, Lovato said.

“There was no remorse at all,” Pacheco said, after telling Morris about his injury. “He was laughing and making jokes. … I was bleeding and trying to control him by myself. … He was really extremely violent.”

While Pacheco spoke, Lopez could be seen on the video feed laughing and making faces; the behavior was also on display as others, including a fearful young family member, asked for a higher bond.

“We can’t take it no more,” the young woman said, after composing herself. “We want him away from us.”

Deputy District Attorney William Tilton listed Lopez’s priors and pending cases, which include protection order violations and a misdemeanor assault allegation.

“(Lopez) is a grave danger to law enforcement; he’s a danger to his family and he’s a danger to the community. We have a law enforcement officer who was maimed,” Tilton said, asking for bail to be set at $100,000, cash-only.

Lopez suffers from mental health issues and is a product of the state foster care system, his public defender said. He has limited means for posting bail and it is difficult to get the treatment he needs in jail.

Morris said it was clear Lopez has mental health problems, but sometimes, the only safe option is jail.

“The defendant poses a grave risk of harm,” Morris said, imposing the $100,000, cash-only bail. He set bail in the second-degree assault case at $25,000, cash or property pledge.

The attack on Pacheco prompted sympathy and concern from other law enforcement agency heads.

“With that much anger and violence in our community, that concerns us greatly, and the disrespect to law enforcement to have somebody act that way, treat a fellow human being like that, is totally uncalled for,” Sheriff Gene Lillard said.

Although serious assaults on officers are rare here, one is too many, he added.

“Anything like that is too much. It is always a shock to our system as law enforcement officers to deal with something like that and it goes to show there are some very bad people out there who are very negative toward law enforcement.”

Pacheco was in relatively good spirits and acted professionally, Lillard also said.

“Chief Pacheco was very strong at the scene. It was a bad deal. … It hits close to home.”

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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