To lead off our headline story, it would be enough to say, "Someone killed the Mayor of Belmopan's son last night." But at least in the community of sports fans - Aubrey Lopez was a man unto himself, a name in his own right.
And that is why the community was so thoroughly stunned when the news went out this morning that this well known baller, long time teacher and son of a prominent politician had been killed. For those who knew Aubrey Lopez - the way his life ended is both unjust and unexpected. Jules Vasquez reports.
30 year old Aubrey Lopez, he was one of Belize's elite basketball players. A veteran teacher at EP Yorke and a son and a brother to the Lopez family. They gathered at his former school today to absorb the shocking news, in this place where he was most loved. His father is the Mayor of Belmopan City Simeon Lopez. He is rocked by the unexpectedness of this.
Simeon Lopez, Father of Deceased/Mayor of Belmopan City
"Just after midnight last night I was called by a relative of mine a nurse who works at the KHMH. She called and told me about it. He was identified by the Social Security card he had. I said 'oh my goodness!'"
It is the news no father or loved one could take. Aubrey Lopez was found dead at 11:20 last night on Prince Street. He was thrown unto the street after someone shot him in the head inside his car, this Nissan Altima. You can still see the marks of the blood seeping out of the driver's side. After they stole the car and left him dead on the street, the drivers of the vehicle sped off and went on a shooting spree opening fire here in the Queen Charlotte street in the Yarborough area. Police set chase after the car and intercepted it near the Queen's Square market. Five men men were inside; three escaped and two were captured. But who would have been in his car that would have killed him?
"Personally, and this is my own opinion, I think he was lured into that area of Belize City last night."
He left his job at E.P. Yorke High School at 10:00 pm after a staff meeting and some socializing with his fellow teachers. Today at E.P. Yorke his imprints were everywhere. Students in his homeroom wrote reflections about him all across the blackboard. And where that wasn't enough they honored the coach with makeshift murals, while others consoled themselves. His boss was Principal Rodrick Cardinez.
Rodrick Cardinez, Principal EP Yorke
"The first thing that we did this morning is for us to come to terms with his death as a staff. We have a trained councilor on staff and because Aubrey had a homeroom we asked the councilor to be in that homeroom. We try to remain strong for our students because they too were really affected by this senseless murder. I have addressed them over the PA system and have mentioned that should anybody feel the need to be out of class to continue cope with this loss, we will always be there for them."
Aubrey Lopez started teaching at the school in 1999 instructing in wood technology, technical drawing and 4th form math. He also coaches the basketball team.
"He was also a homeroom teacher, as a homeroom teacher he was a father to his students. As a matter of fact just this morning one had mentioned that he has lost not only a homeroom teacher but a friend and that he looks forward to come to school every day because he felt motivated when his homeroom teacher would speak to him."
And that how he was for Antonette Alvarez, a graduate who he taught in first form.
Antonette Alvarez, former student
"He was like a father to me. During break time or lunch time i would spend time with him. When I graduated we used to go about together to the games sometimes to the club to have a little fun and almost everywhere I was with him. I was seen as his little daughter, I used to call him my dad."
Natasha James, former student
"I could have never imagined something like this, so shocking. I don't even have words to tell you the truth. This morning I went to see him. But I am telling you, me personally, Natasha James, I will miss him. It is so sad."
The basketball community will also miss him.
Basil Brannon, President of Belize District Basketball Association
"We are really going to miss him. Words cannot explain what I am going through right now. As a friend and also as a colleague on the basketball court, I am going to miss him a lot. Aubrey is a superstar not just on the basketball court but off the basketball court. This guy would come up and talk to you like he had known you for 3, 4 or 5 years when he first met you. This is the type of person he is and he is willing to help. We lost not Aubrey, basketball player, we lost someone deeper and bigger than that. Its really ridiculous what is going on here right now."
That is the common sentiment among those we spoke to: outraged at this inexplicable loss.
"Well I am a bit angry and a bit moved considering the state in which our country has reached. As leaders in this community we need to do something. People keep saying this over and over, but nothing is being done. It's tough."
"Someone like Aubrey, what could he do to someone for them to do him something like this? All I can say is that those young boys out there don't have a heart. I think the ones that are killing every minute they need to find the right place for them. And do you know what their place is? Right under the ground. The same place Aubrey is going they need to go to."
"This is not going to work. It's going to happen over and over. My only hope is that this could stop. We cannot bring back Aubrey to life, that is gone, we will just have to bear and overcome it. I know we will pull through, but for now it hurts. It does hurt and we want to see it stop. It makes no sense for people to go through this."
The post mortem confirmed that he received a single shot to the head but died from strangulation on his own blood. The vehicle was not registered to him, but to a friend; he was driving it, however. When police found the men in the car near the Queen's Square market one of the men was reportedly hiding under the bridge. He and the other man who were captured are detained pending charges, while police search for three others.
Lopez was married and the father of an 8 year old son, Jaden. Funeral services have been tentatively set for 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday in Belmopan.
And to briefly outline his stellar basketball career, Lopez represented Belize internationally from his early teens, playing on junior and senior national selections in a number of international tournaments. He started playing in the semi pro basketball league in the two-thousand's where he won a championship with the Raiders. He was a standout player throughout his career right up to this year's senior basketball "Ballin 4 Life" Tournament in which he was the captain for the Belmopan Bandits, currently the league leader Tournament standings. In four games this season he averaged 23 and a half points, six rebounds, four steals and 2.3 assists.