This article was last modified on December 28, 2020.

Milwaukee’s Lopez Gang

In the 1990s, the Lopez family was led by Julian “Big Dog” Lopez. The gang patrolled a stretch from S. 6th to S. 10th streets, between W. Greenfield Ave. and W. Scott St., and battled with the Latin Kings for drug-dealing turf.

The family owned or controlled more than a dozen houses and apartments around 8th and Madison streets, some with surveillance cameras. In addition to real estate, they purchased a fleet of almost two dozen cars and an arsenal of 46 weapons.

They painted “Welcome to the Jungle” across the intersection and hung a deactivated grenade from a light pole, along with a sign that read “King Killa.” Visitors to the neighborhood faced gang members who would jot down license plates and follow community organizers. During drug deals, they patrolled the area with walkie-talkies in shirts that read “Lopez 8th Street.” They flashed guns in daylight, shooting in the air or at the cars of rivals.

Allegedly, the gang’s principal enforcer and hit man was twenty-year-old Arthur Lopez, Jr, a nephew of “Big Dog” Lopez.

Former rival Carlos “Hollywood” Hernandez was once a member of the Latin Kings but had left the gang and turned his life around. He started a youth basketball organization and got a job with a city organization helping to keep children out of gangs. Part of his job was to try to mediate the problems between the rival gangs in the city. The Lopez gang went to Carlos about a territorial dispute with the Latin Kings.

Authorities believe that Carlos was unable to resolve the issue, so Arthur Lopez and several family members surrounded the building where Carlos worked. When he left work at around 4:30pm on January 25, 1999, authorities say that Lopez put on a mask and rode his bike to Carlos’s car. He then shot him eight times, killing him instantly.

Gary Eckstein recalls, “The police were doing saturation patrols and were on the scene within one minute of the shooting. I used to shop at El Rey grocery and I had to drive around the block for parking – never saw so many patrols ever in my life. I wasn’t there the day it happened, but they kept up the patrols in the area for months. The Sheriff’s Department even put resources into patrolling the neighborhood – pulling their officers from other duties and it had almost no effect on the violence.”

Though police had little evidence linking Arthur to the killing of Carlos, he was later arrested for driving without a license. His father, Arturo Lopez Sr., went to the police station and demanded that they release his son or he would kill all of the police officers there. Arturo was convicted for threatening a police officer and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. While in prison, he made several phone calls to his son and other family members about the drug ring. His phone calls were recorded by the police and a case was beginning to be made against the Lopez family.

Meanwhile, Latin Kings member Maximillano Costillo, 19, and his girlfriend, Vanessa Rivas, 15, were walking home from a trip to the grocery store on August 11, 1999, when a car began following the couple, driven by Arthur Lopez Jr. As they arrived home, the couple were shot several times by Lopez and his accomplice, Luis Acevedo. Both Vanessa and Maximilliano were killed.

Within a few months, arrest warrants were placed for several Lopez gang members because of Arturo’s phone calls and eyewitnesses. On December 15, 1999, eight members of the Lopez gang were arrested, but Arthur Lopez Jr. escaped.

While on the run, Lopez taunted U.S. investigators, calling them and claiming that he would never be caught. For example, Lopez made a taunting phone call to the U.S. Marshals Service from a pay phone in Hartford, Connecticut in January 2006. On the voice mail he said, “You think you can catch me? You think you can arrest me? Hey, Doug! I’m waiting.” He was referring to Deputy U.S. Marshal Doug Bachert, a lead investigator in Milwaukee hunting for Lopez.

In November of 2010, Lopez was arrested in Mexico after an anonymous tip lead authorities to Monterrey, where he surrendered to the U.S. consulate. He was using the alias “Roberto Gonzalez-Orozco”. Bachert said that Lopez’s arrest should serve as a message to other criminals who might try to flee to Mexico. “It’s not the safe haven it once was,” he said.

Lopez was charged in state court with three counts of homicide and in federal court with eight drug and two gun counts. Federal authorities recommended a 40-year sentence as part of a plea agreement. The three state homicide counts were dismissed as part of the plea bargain.

In June 2012, Lopez was sentenced to the forty years in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert. He will not be eligible for parole until 2044. As of 2020, he was in prison at Leavenworth.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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