Rafael Lopez is a U.S. Army veteran who served two yearlong tours in Iraq. The first, in 2003-2004, he describes as nerve-racking. The second, which came after the troop surge, he describes as almost like a vacation.
But the war did not prepare the 27-year-old for what happened to him and a group of his friends one recent morning in downtown Minneapolis, which some folks say resembles the Wild, Wild West these days.
Lopez, of Coon Rapids, and two married couples he knows were attacked by a gang of 10 men ages 16 to early 20s, shortly after the group of friends left the Aqua nightclub in the city's Warehouse District early Sept. 2. The brazen assault took place not more than 30 feet from the 1st Police Precinct station on Fourth Street between Hennepin Avenue and First Avenue North.
Now, if I were going to get assaulted, I would think that being next to a police station would be the best place to be. Help is next door, right? Not that morning, according to an internal affairs unit complaint filed by the group last weekend.
SHE SAID COP SAID 'NOT MY PROBLEM'
The assault took place after members of the gang of assailants crossed paths with Lopez and his friends - Joshua Rivera, 27, and his wife, Magdalena Malajowicz, 26, of Blaine, and Joshua's brother, Jonathan Rivera, 19, and his wife, Bobbie, 19, of Coon Rapids - as the group walked to their car.
Magdalena, according to the complaint, was punched in the head as she tried to pull one of Lopez's assailants from him. That's when she ran up the police station's steps for help. She passed through the front door, but the second one leading into the station was locked. She began gesturing wildly for the officer visible on the other side of the glass door to come out, "but he just shrugged his shoulders," according to the complaint.