It was just past 3:30 a.m., about halfway through Deputy Joseph Lopez's overnight shift, when a black sedan smashed head-on into his patrol car.
The State Patrol is investigating the accident. Lt. Mark Peterson says it appears the driver of the sedan was traveling eastbound in a westbound lane. According to the accident report, when the two cars collided the passenger side of Lopez's patrol car took the brunt of the impact.
"Unfortunately, the rider with Deputy Lopez was his wife, and she did not survive the crash," Peterson says.
It wasn't typical for 56-year-old Maggie Lopez to ride with her husband during his patrol shift. Officials with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office say Mrs. Lopez had gotten permission to participate in a law enforcement ride-along.
Spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine says ride-alongs are open to just about anyone who asks to go on one.
Every police agency typically does ride-alongs ... We obviously want the public to be educated about what our law enforcement officials do.Ramsey County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine
"Every police agency typically does ride-alongs, and she was on a ride-along with him that evening. We obviously want the public to be educated about what our law enforcement officials do," said Drinkwine.
Asked whether in this case the ride-along was just a chance for the couple to be together on a holiday, Drinkwine said, "You know, I can't answer that. I would assume that she was on a ride-along understanding what her husband does."
Drinkwine doesn't have any information on how often spouses participate in ride-alongs. But she says she does not think it's uncommon.
Lt. Mark Peterson of the Minnesota State Patrol says he does not think it was at all unusual that Deputy Lopez's wife took part in a ride-along. He says ride-alongs are also very common at his agency. "As a member of the State Patrol I arranged ride-alongs for two media [representatives] last night for us. I've had riders with me many times," Peterson says.
Deputy Joseph Lopez, 61, is recovering at home from minor injuries suffered in the crash. Lopez is a long-time member of the department. Spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine says Lopez trains many of the new deputies in his division, and he is held in high esteem by all of his colleagues.
"He's very highly respected. He's been with our department for 27 years. He's a veteran and very-well respected within the patrol division and within the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office."
Drinkwine says the sheriff's office grieves the loss of Lopez's wife as one of their own. Drinkwine says she doesn't know if the department will make any changes to its ride-along policy as a result of the accident.