"The cops killed Francisco, plain and simple, and they'll probably put me in jail for saying so," says Hoover High student Amanda M. She claims she was arrested for "obstruction" after being questioned about her 17-year-old friend Francisco Lopez. He and two accomplices allegedly stole a 1994 Acura Integra in La Mesa on November 13 and drove to Inferno (formerly Club Infusion), an all-age Escondido nightclub. Lopez died later, after he jumped off a Rancho Bernardo freeway overpass while running from police; likely he was unaware of the 120-foot drop due to thick fog on the bridge. One of the other teens who jumped is critically injured; the third was taken to juvenile hall.
"The cops didn't have to chase them down like that; they could've arrested them at the nightclub," says Amanda. "They were watching the car to see where they'd go. They let [Lopez and his friends] climb in and drive off and didn't try to pull them over until they hit some fog and they were afraid of losing them, so they hit the lights."
The police report states that officers traced the stolen vehicle via a theft-recovery device to a parking lot near Inferno at 12:30 a.m. Officers were conferring with Escondido police when the teens entered the car and drove off. Approximately a half hour had elapsed between the stolen-vehicle call and the drive-off toward Highway 78. A stop was attempted about a half mile from the club, but the Acura sped off and a police supervisor called off the 100 mph chase after it ran onto Highway 15 south and officers reported thick fog. Police then spotted the car near West Bernardo Drive and Pomerado Road. The car was smoking and pulling over to the roadside. The two teens emerged and jumped from the bridge before police got out of their car.
Amanda says she saw Lopez and his two companions inside Inferno around midnight but that none of them discussed a stolen car.
"Because someone else there said [the trio] were talking to me about stealing it, the cops accused me of lying about [knowing this] and arrested me." She thinks the arrest was punitive. "I've been one of the people saying, 'The cops killed Francisco. It was their fault,' but nobody seems to care. It's open season on kids, and I don't think the cops want me going around saying this."