Marine killed in Afghanistan was son of two Calif. deputies

Hunter Lopez, 22, had planned to join the sheriff's office after his deployment, said Sheriff Chad Bianco


By Beau Yarbrough
Redlands Daily Facts, Calif.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — A Coachella Valley man is among the 13 service members killed in an attack on the Kabul airport Thursday, Aug. 26, as the United States pulls out of Afghanistan after almost 20 years in the country.

The death of Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, the son of Riverside County deputy sheriff and Riverside Sheriff's Association Board Secretary Alicia Lopez and Riverside County Sheriffs' Capt. Herman Lopez, the chief of the La Quinta Police Department, was announced in a statement issued by the union Friday, Aug. 27.

"We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents," the statement reads, in part.

More than 180 people, including 13 American service members, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, which the United States is blaming on a regional Islamic State group. It was the deadliest day for U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan since 2011.

Lopez is at least the second member of the military from Riverside County to have died in the attack. Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae'Lee Grant Nikoui, who is from Norco, also was killed while stationed at the Kabul airport. In all, 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier were killed in the attack.

Lopez graduated in 2017 from La Quinta High School in the Desert Sands Unified School District, and was a "a beloved student," according to district spokeswoman Mary Perry. He was a Sheriff's explorer scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017, according to the sheriff's association. Lopez was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, and planned to join the Riverside County Sheriff's Department after his deployment ended, according to the statement.

 

"Hunter was the victim of vicious evil and was killed because he wore a United States Marine uniform with love and pride," the statement concludes. "Our entire community feels the anguish, and we mourn the death of Hunter, who answered the call to serve, defend and protect our nation. Like his parents who serve our community, being a Marine to Hunter wasn't a job; it was a calling. He loved his family, and as we grieve for Hunter and his fellow Marines taken from us too soon, there are simply no words to express how deeply he will be missed — Semper Fi."

Lopez was remembered Friday by friends, family and local officials.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco posted on Facebook that he was "unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero."

Bianco added that "the Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self."

"Still surreal," Julian Valles wrote on Twitter. "Love you, bro. You were selfless to the end and I know you went out fighting. I miss you and I'll see you soon."

Lopez's uncle shared his memories of Hunter on Facebook.

"This kid knew since he was 11 what he wanted to do," J.C. Lopez wrote. "Every free moment was spent training and perfecting his craft. Hunter, you did your job. Rest now. Until we see you again, son."

The city of La Quinta honored the death of their police chief's son in a written statement Friday.

"We are all so humbled by the service and ultimate sacrifice that Hunter gave to protect our country. He was a brave and selfless soldier who answered the call to be a United States Marine. Like his parents, Hunter wanted to help serve others and protect his community."

Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said that his "heart aches" on behalf of the Lopez and Nikoui families.

"They lost their lives in service to our country and to humankind," he wrote in a written statement issued Friday afternoon. "This is devastating to our nation and to Riverside County, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of these two heroes. During this difficult time, we pray for our nation and the safety of our military."

According to the union, sheriff's department personnel are authorized to wear a black mourning band over their badge for seven days, and all department facilities can lower their flags to half-staff for seven days in honor of the 13 slain service members. Likewise, the American flag, state flag and the POW/MIA flag are being flown at half-staff at all county‑owned and leased facilities, according to Supervisor Perez's office.

Instead of flowers, the Lopez family requests donations in their name to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation, 21810 Cactus Ave., Riverside, CA 92518.

Memorial service plans will be announced later.

Staff writer Jeff Horseman contributed to this report.

(c)2021 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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