TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s been 70 years since a Tampa police officer was gunned down in Ybor City. On Tuesday, family members gathered at police headquarters to honor Officer Morris D. Lopez, who was just 25 years old when he died.
On July 9, 1949, Officer Lopez was walking his beat in historic Ybor City. When he stopped at a street corner on East 7th Avenue, a single gunshot was fired by an unknown person. The bullet struck Officer Lopez, but not before he pushed a young newspaper boy out of the way of danger as he fell to the ground.
Officer Lopez died a hero that night in the line of duty, putting another life before his.
Seven decades later, a memorial ceremony was held to honor him.
His grandson, Morris Lopez III, was there and explains how things came full circle after his grandad’s death.
“That paperboy he pushed out of the way, I get goosebumps thinking about it, but that paperboy’s son joined the fire department the same year I did,” Lopez said. “We became best friends and he was the best man at my wedding.”
Morris Lopez III wears a fire-rescue uniform now. Although the only memories of his grandfather come from stories, those stories are why he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“The reason I’m in public service is because of him,” said Lopez.