Young cop Arthur Lopez's legacy: devotion

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Nassau Police Officer Arthur Lopez, 29, who died Nassau Police Officer Arthur Lopez, 29, who died in the line of duty on Oct. 23, 2012. Photo Credit: NCPD

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

Arthur Lopez, a young cop eight years into a job he'd dreamed of as a kid in Queens, had what police call "a good eye."

"It takes a good eye to scan the streets," friend and fellow Officer Michael Leone said. "Artie had a good eye and a good sense of when something wasn't right out there."

"He took great pride in being proactive," added Leone, one of Lopez's classmates at the Nassau Police Academy. "Artie was a front-seat kind of cop."

Lopez also was a devoted son who would call his mother every day from his patrol car before beginning his shift.

"If he didn't call her, she would call him," said Greg Holgerson, Lopez's partner in the First Precinct in Baldwin for five years. "I'd look over at him and say, 'Hey, you didn't call her?' "

Lopez, Holgerson and Leone graduated from the Nassau Police Academy in 2005. All three served at the First Precinct in Baldwin, part of an eight-member, tight-knit 14th Squad that proudly dubbed itself "The A-Team."

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"He was 22, I was five years older and I thought of him as my little brother," Holgerson said. "But Artie, on the job and as a friend, always seemed older and wiser than his years."

The "A-Team" remained together as an extended family even after Lopez left the First Precinct in 2010 to join the police department's elite Emergency Service Unit.

"To get there after only five years on the force, that was an achievement," Holgerson said. "Artie studied for it, he worked hard for it because he wanted to be one of those guys first on the scene, one of those guys rappelling off of a roof . . . "

When he left, Lopez asked the "A-Team" for one favor. "He wanted to stay one of the group," Holgerson said. "He said, 'Don't forget me.' "

Off the job, Lopez, 29, who worked as a mechanic before joining the force, was a gym rat who took his workouts seriously. He also loved cars and fully intended, someday, to buy a vintage Mustang that he could work on in his garage.

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Lopez also loved his boat, a 24-foot Sea Ray 240 Sundancer he dubbed "Salt Shaker." The kid from Queens, who'd moved to Babylon Village almost eight years ago, took some ribbing from fellow officers about his newfound seafaring ways -- especially since Lopez could barely swim.

"He'd head out into the Great South Bay and to Fire Island or wherever and dock up like he'd been doing it for 10 years," said Leone, who'd taught Lopez how to use a powerboat. "Artie had a knack for it, he was fearless."

On the street, Lopez, who was of Cuban-Colombian descent, had a knack for dealing with people too. "He could jump right in, where necessary and calm things down," Holgerson said.

"Sometimes, when he was talking in Spanish, I couldn't understand what he was saying," he said, "but I could see that the people out there respected him."

Lopez talked to friends often of bringing his parents from Queens to Long Island. He considered expanding his house or helping them move into a condo.

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"Artie loved his job, he was devoted to his family and he loved Long Island," Leone said. "He wanted to bring his parents out so they'd be together, so they could share Long Island."

On the day he died, the young officer, using his "good eye," spotted a car traveling on its rims near the Nassau-Queens border. Lopez, proactive as always, stopped the driver -- identified by police as Darrell Fuller, an ex-con -- who coldly put a gun to Lopez's chest and point blank pulled the trigger.

The young officer's mother, sister and father, a Police Benevolent Association cap atop his head, were met at the hospital by a group that included Holgerson and Leone.

Lopez's mother, Mirella, upon learning that her son had been killed, began to wail, a keening, heartbreaking sound.

Later, the family was asked whether they wanted Lopez's service to be in Queens. No, they replied. "They said Artie loved Nassau County and that they wanted Artie's service to be in Nassau County," Leone said.

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And so the young police officer, on Saturday joined by tens of thousands of other fellow officers, was mourned at St. Christopher's Church in Baldwin. Right near the First Precinct -- birthplace of "The A-Team" -- which, as Lopez once requested, has no intention of ever letting the young officer, or his family, go.

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