ABQ po­lice fa­tally shoot rob­bery sus­pect

Man, fe­male ac­com­plice hit fast food joints re­peat­edly, po­lice say


Gil­bert Lo­vato and his get­away driver, Au­drey Hapke, were av­er­ag­ing at least one armed holdup per day in re­cent weeks, po­lice say.

They re­peat­edly hit lo­cal fast food joints through­out Al­bu­querque, in­clud­ing Twis­ters, Church’s Chicken and McDon­ald’s, and made off with thou­sands of dol­lars over a month’s time, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Po­lice, who had been on the case for weeks, say they fi­nally caught up with the pair Satur­day night after they fled yet an­other rob­bery, this time at a Vil­lage Inn.

Lo­vato, 38, was shot and killed by un­der­cover de­tec­tives who pulled the pair over.

Hapke, 35, who po­lice said was driv­ing the get­away car, was not harmed in the shooting and was booked into the county jail Sunday on a no-bond hold. She’s fac­ing 17 counts of armed rob­bery and 17 counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit rob­bery.

Ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed against Hapke, she told de­tec­tives she had been Lo­vato’s get­away driver dur­ing numer­ous re­cent armed rob­beries, in­clud­ing the rob­beries of three Star­bucks, a McDon­ald’s, a Church’s Chicken, a Ken­tucky Fried Chicken and a Vil­lage Inn. But she couldn’t re­mem­ber de­tails about the rob­beries.

Lo­vato had re­peat­edly been cap­tured on sur­veil­lance footage rob­bing the stores.

And he usu­ally fol­lowed the same rou­tine: He wrapped his gun in a scarf, gauze, or cloth and pointed it to­ward the cashier, grabbed tip jars and cash reg­is­ter money and some­times made off with hun­dreds of dol­lars.

The hol­i­days didn’t de­ter him — he robbed a Vil­lage Inn and a Star­bucks on Christ­mas Day, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Star­bucks, it seems, was his most fre­quent tar­get. Of­fi­cers say he robbed five of the com­pany’s cafes dur­ing the three-week pe­riod be­tween Dec. 16 and Jan. 6. And he was also sus­pected of rob­bing a Wells Fargo branch dur­ing that time.

Al­bu­querque Po­lice Depart­ment spokesman Fred Du­ran said de­tec­tives had been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the rob­beries for weeks, and wit­nesses and vic­tims reg­u­larly de­scribed the rob­ber in the same way.

“The sus­pect has very thick glasses, and that is some­thing that stuck out with the wit­nesses that have been able to talk about the armed rob­beries,” said Celina Espinoza, a po­lice spokes­woman. He also had a tat­too on his neck and fa­cial hair, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Wit­nesses fre­quently said they saw the man jump into a wait­ing black Nis­san Versa with front end dam­age.

Fri­day night, of­fi­cers re­ceived a tip that the black Versa was near Univer­sity and Me­naul and un­der­cover de­tec­tives spot­ted it at the Mo­tel 6, Du­ran said.

De­tec­tives watched Lo­vato and Hapke get in the car and even­tu­ally drive to a nearby Vil­lage Inn, which they say Lo­vato walked into and robbed.

Un­der­cover de­tec­tives fol­lowed them from the Vil­lage Inn and pulled them over near Carlisle and Co­manche at about 11:30 p.m..

“Dur­ing the time they con­tacted these in­di­vid­u­als there was an al­ter­ca­tion that led to gun­fire,” Du­ran said. “Of­fi­cers did fire their weapons.”

Al­bu­querque po­lice of­fi­cials held a news con­fer­ence Sunday af­ter­noon to re­lease in­for­ma­tion about the sus­pects but didn’t pro­vide many de­tails about the shooting.

They said they couldn’t say if Lo­vato had a weapon, nor could they ex­plain why of­fi­cers felt threat­ened.

It also wasn’t clear if Lo­vato was in the car when he was shot. He was taken to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, where he later died.

“Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still on­go­ing, and we are less than 24 hours in,” Du­ran said.

Nei­ther Espinoza nor Du­ran said if a weapon was found at the scene. Nor would they con­firm de­tails about the of­fi­cer or of­fi­cers who shot Lo­vato.

“We do have three on paid stan­dard leave, but that doesn’t mean that all three fired their weapons,” Espinoza said. “We have to do foren­sic tests to see who fired.”

Both Lo­vato and Hapke are con­victed felons. Lo­vato was re­leased from jail a week ago after spend­ing a night in cus­tody on a drug charge, ac­cord­ing to court and jail records.

In 1998, Lo­vato pleaded guilty to felony pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana with in­tent to dis­trib­ute, and in 2009, he pleaded guilty to felony tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence.

He pleaded guilty to felony pos­ses­sion of heroin in 2010, and he has faced numer­ous other drug charges over the years.

Hapke pleaded guilty to felony bur­glary in a 2002 case, and she pleaded no con­test to con­spir­acy to com­mit rob­bery in a 2012 case.

Du­ran said mul­ti­ple agen­cies are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shooting, as is stan­dard when of­fi­cers open fire.

APD is un­der­go­ing courten-forced re­forms after a 16-month Depart­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tion found in 2014 that the depart­ment vi­o­lated cit­i­zens’ civil rights through the use of force.

Of­fi­cers were in­volved in 42 shoot­ings from 2010 to 2014, 28 of them fa­tal. Last year, of­fi­cers opened fire seven times and were in­volved in five fa­tal shoot­ings.

Gil­bert Lo­vato

Au­drey Hapke

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