Cop caught on video bullying woman is taken off street duty

Posted: July 22, 2009

A Philadelphia cop caught on a surveillance video jamming his service weapon into the neck of a young woman in a convenience store has been removed from street duty until disciplinary proceedings against him are complete.

Officer Alberto Lopez Sr. confronted Agnes Lawless, then 20, last August at a Lukoil store in the Northeast, after Lawless and three friends had been in a fender-bender involving Lopez's son.

Images from the store video appeared with an article about the incident in Monday's Daily News, and yesterday police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said Lopez had been placed on desk duty.

"That was a decision made by the commissioner or one of the deputy commissioners," Vanore said. "After having seen the video and the story, they took him off the street until the discipline is decided, and that should be shortly."

An investigation of the incident by the department's Internal Affairs Bureau concluded that Lopez had verbally abused Lawless and that "a gun was pushed into her neck." It also concluded that Lopez was guilty of "departmental violations."

A June 15 hearing for Lopez before the Police Board of Inquiry was canceled and won't be rescheduled until next month, Inspector Chris Flacco said. The board will recommend what discipline, if any, will be imposed on Lopez.

The decision ultimately rests with Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Lopez originally was removed from street duty last September when Internal Affairs was investigating, but he was restored to full duty in December after the District Attorney's Office declined to pursue criminal charges against him.

After his physical struggle with Lawless inside the store, Lopez arrested her on charges of assaulting a police officer. After the surveillance video of the incident was released, Lopez failed to show up at three court appearances and the charges against Lawless were dropped. She now lives in Florida.

Lawless' attorney, Alan Yatvin, said yesterday that it was "a good thing they're taking [Lopez] off the street, given the conduct we see in the video, but a more important question is why those decisions aren't a matter of routine.

"Why does it take a story in the Daily News and on television for the department to do what it should have done, which is to take him and keep him off the street and proceed quickly with the disciplinary process?" Yatvin asked.

Lopez's attorney, Gerald Stanshine, could not be reached for comment.

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