MINNEAPOLIS -- Officer James Lopez has been "on duty" in downtown Minneapolis for 15 years.
"I love the patrol," says Lopez.
But earlier this week he was off duty, working security at a north Minneapolis liquor store when he came face to face with an armed and angry criminal.
"You just have to think and be on your toes and it's a split decision," says Lopez.
That day, there had been a report, of a man on the streets carrying a rifle. Officer Lopez was already at the ready but had no idea the suspect would end up in the liquor store parking lot.
David DeLosier was working the cash register.
"I saw the gentleman walking toward the store, pulling the shotgun out of his pants and that's when I turned to Jim Lopez and said this guy's got a gun," says DeLosier.
It became very clear, very soon that police officers are never really off duty.
The man was waving around the rifle in a busy parking lot. There were also people inside the store. This is the middle of a residential area with a park next door.
"You could actually hear the kids playing and the adults in the background," says Lopez.
Instinct and training kicked in as Officer Lopez worked to protect the crowd and himself.
It didn't take long to catch up with the man on the other side of the building. Officer Lopez tackled and arrested him, but the rifle was nowhere to be seen.
At that moment, a woman pushing a baby stroller pointed to the roof. The suspect had thrown the gun up there. It was no doubt a situation that could have ended much differently.
"You have a right to have a gun, but in the right manner, not just running around with it like that person was doing," says Lopez.
The suspect is still in the Hennepin County jail and he has a long criminal history with previous arrests for burglary, disorderly conduct and assault.
The suspect has not yet been charged in the rifle case. At this point, no one knows why he was waving that gun around in a public place.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)