More than four years before he killed his ex-fiancee and two other people at Mercy Hospital, Juan Lopez made many of his female colleagues at the Chicago Fire Department training academy so “incredibly uncomfortable” that they learned to keep their distance from him, records show.
One woman who trained with Lopez told a CFD internal affairs investigator in April 2014 that she felt “threatened” because he knew her home address and phone number, saying then that she “never knows what can happen,” according to personnel files on Lopez city officials released Friday.
The documents offer a more complete picture of Lopez’s alleged “improper conduct toward women” that led the fire department to fire him barely two months after he was hired on March 17, 2014.
A female trainee filed a report on April 9 that year complaining that Lopez would deliberately run into her during physical training, “viciously staring at her with a snide response,” according to the investigative file.
View this document on ScribdThe woman told Lopez “that she was not a fan of his behavior” and that he “had been a nuisance” since early in training. Things came to a head when she said Lopez punched her in the back as trainees jogged down Roosevelt Road, and she looked up to see him “staring at her, smiling.”
That prompted her to file a report, noting she “was not hurt during the incident but she just wanted the disrespectful acts to stop,” records show.
“Whenever she sees … Lopez walking towards her direction, she purposely tries to stand on the other side of the room to avoid Lopez hitting her or even conversing with her,” an investigator noted after interviewing the woman.
During an academy event where trainees received gear, another female trainee said Lopez “was reaching his arms back and attempting to inappropriately touch every female’s legs with his arms or hands while they walked behind him.”
An instructor snapped at Lopez for the stunt, which other women corroborated. That instructor later said Lopez had “an attitude problem.”
Lopez denied most of the allegations, calling them “false, despicable and malicious” and saying he thought he had “a fine relationship with the other females of the class.”
He told the investigator about his then-wife and young child, saying he “would never disrespect women in that manner or put his career and family in jeopardy.”
Later that year — several months after Lopez’s firing — his wife would seek an order of protection against him for sleeping with a gun under his pillow and threatening to go to her workplace “and cause a scene.”
Lopez admitted to the CFD investigator “that his attitude sucked,” but claimed he had “met with his assigned group and apologized for his actions and attempted to improve.”
A male recruit who said he talked to Lopez more than anyone else in the class said Lopez thought he was “being blackballed by the instructors.”
One woman said “she truly felt” Lopez “was a perverted individual and continued to keep her distance.”
Another said Lopez intentionally bumped into her in a cafeteria early on in training, but she didn’t report it initially because she “did not want to get anyone in trouble and did not feel she would be a team player.”
Of the 11 female trainees interviewed by the CFD investigator, 10 had “negative remarks” about Lopez, and four “had some sort of incident” with him. All nine male trainees interviewed agreed Lopez “was a bad candidate with a bad attitude.”
“There seemed to be a general consensus that … Lopez was a disliked classmate,” an investigator wrote.
Lopez was fired May 22, 2014, within his CFD probationary period.
He was hired by the city again in June 2017 for a 10-week internship in Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s 26th Ward office.
Records don’t show Lopez having any disciplinary issues during that stint, which Maldonado described earlier this week as a “gofer” job.