LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Friends and family say you couldn’t talk about Jerry Lopez without mentioning his big family.
While the 39-year-old delivery driver worked, his wife, Karen Lopez, homeschooled their seven children, most of whom were adopted by the couple after they fostered them through the Clark County foster care system. He was recently promoted and celebrated his 13-year battle for U.S. citizenship.
“He’d just come (home from work), throw his stuff down, not even change and just jump into the chaos of our day, roll around the floor, play with the kids,” Karen said inside a close friend’s Henderson home Thursday afternoon, speaking about her husband’s “family man” attitude. “All the kids would always scream, ‘Daddy’s home!’ as soon as they heard the garage go up.”
Now, those seven children are looking to their mother for comfort. She too is struggling to accept that Jerry was killed Wednesday morning by a man that just killed his own mother.
While en route to work around 4:00 Wednesday morning, a man in his 30s on a carjacking spree provoked officers to shoot at him multiple times. Police said he stole a patrol car after shooting his mother in a southeast valley neighborhood.
Jerry was in one of three civilian vehicles carjacked at gunpoint afterward. He was driving his family’s white van — the only vehicle large enough to transport their family of nine. Police said they heard a gunshot and the suspect pulling the occupant out.
When Jerry did not answer his phone, Karen drove to where the news said a shooting happened. She was on scene for five hours before anyone confirmed her husband was dead, she said.
“My stepdad had to catch me. I pretty much passed out. I just collapsed because I was like — I just kept saying, ‘No, no, it’s not real. It’s not real,’ ” Karen said, holding back tears. “(Jerry) pulled over after seeing the cop cars, and the guy just pulled up behind him and shot him and basically threw him outside the vehicle like a dog and ran over my husband and just took off.”
Over the next 24 hours, Karen said her children — ages 3 to 11 — learned their dad was gone.
“(The oldest child) just last night kept texting my husband’s phone. He said, ‘Mommy, I know he’s not going to answer, but I just want — hopefully he can still read them and I want him to know that I love him.’ And he said, ‘I guess now I’m going to have to be a father for all of the babies,’ ” Karen said.
“Our one 5-year-old just kept asking me to open my phone and show him a picture of daddy in heaven with Jesus, and I said, ‘I wish I could show you that.’ He got upset because I couldn’t. He says, ‘No, open your phone and show me,’ and I said, ‘I can’t.’
“I’m just having to keep it together in front of my kids. I don’t know what that looks like, but I just know I have to. I don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice to fall apart. I have my moments where I do, but I don’t have that luxury to fall apart because I have seven kids that are depending upon me.”
While an online search of Jerry’s name labels him a “carjacking victim,” that’s not how Karen and friends want him to be remembered. Instead, they reminisce about his involvement as a father, love as a husband, giving as a friend and dedication to his faith. Karen added he recently began coaching his son’s hockey team.
“Jerry wouldn’t ask for anything, but he would be there at the drop of a hat if somebody called him and needed something. He just would give you the shirt off his back,” Karen said, visibly transitioning between soft smiles and angry eyes. “I just want people to remember him for the loving person that he was, the family man that he was, the man of God that he was. Just the most kindness, (most gentle) soul. That’s who Jerry is. Not this victim.”
While Karen says she has a strong support system behind her and her children, she is also tasked with another problem: transportation. She says the van Jerry was driving to work is now totaled and also where the suspect was found deceased.
Friends of the family have established a GoFundMe to help Karen. The description says it will help pay for “the memorial and funeral expenses, provide for the family’s living expenses, address the children’s needs, contribute to an emergency fund, and assist with legal and professional fees.”