WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that Shylene Lopez, former Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) officer with the Carolina Drug Unit, has pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the civil rights of a juvenile arrestee. According to an indictment unsealed in September 2016, Lopez and co-defendants Jose Cartagena, Carlos Nieves, and Jimmy Davis, all POPR officers, used excessive force against C.C., a minor arrested for drug possession, during a police operation on Nov. 15, 2014.
As a part of her guilty plea, Lopez admitted that on Nov. 15, 2014, while the defendants pursued C.C. from a police vehicle, and while C.C. fled from the defendants on his bicycle, co-defendant Nieves exited the police vehicle and shot C.C. in the back with his gun. The defendants eventually caught up with C.C., and C.C. complied with police commands to place his hands behind his back while lying face down on the ground. Lopez admitted that co-defendant Cartagena then held the victim’s hands together and struck the victim on the back of the head with a gun. The officers placed the victim in the rear of the police vehicle between co-defendant Nieves and Lopez. Lopez admitted that on the way to the police station, co-defendant Davis told the victim to talk or they would break his head open, and co-defendant Cartagena struck the victim with an open hand multiple times. Lopez admitted that she also struck the victim by using her open hand to slap the victim twice on the back of the head while he was handcuffed. Once they arrived at the police station, C.C. refused to answer questions. In response, co-defendant Davis took C.C. to a back room. While in the back room, co-defendant Davis struck the victim in the face while the victim sat in a chair. Lopez admitted that the defendants’ abuse caused C.C. extreme physical pain and required him to seek treatment at a local area hospital.
“Honorable law enforcement officers are the cornerstone of our system of Justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When law enforcement officers fail to follow the laws they are sworn to uphold, they undermine their fellow officers and the rule of law. The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute those officers who violate their oaths by willfully using excessive force on persons in their custody.”
“Law enforcement officials are not above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico. “When they abuse their authority by violating the civil rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect, they will be held accountable.”At sentencing, Lopez faces a maximum of ten years in prison. Sentencing will be set by the court on a future date.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys José Contreras and Victor Acevedo of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Gabriel Davis of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.