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Reynaldo Lopez, 79, of 505 Old Carrizo Road wanted a taco, so he grabbed his keys, hopped in his 1989 Ford F-150 pickup truck and started to back out of his driveway. That’s when everything started to go wrong.
Instead of pulling into the street, Lopez backed the truck all the way across the street into a neighbor’s yard where he struck several trees. The truck then went into the alley behind Old Carrizo Road and struck a fencepost behind 507 S. Park St. From there, the truck turned north onto Park Street, swerved into a 2006 Chrysler 300 parked at 204 W. Park St., then continuing on until it came to a complete stop at Park and Main. An officer at the scene said it appeared the pickup might have hit a stump and been dragging the stump for several blocks before catching on fire and filling the cab with smoke.
As soon as the truck stopped, first responders leaped into action and pulled the dazed and confiased Lopez from the vehicle just moments before the entire truck burst into flames. Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department responded in force to extinguish the blaze. Sheriff Charlie Mendeke said Lopez, who is his father-in-law, had recently been switched to a new medication and that apparently caused him to become confused. Though Lopez was uninjured in the incident, he was taken to the hospital to be evaluated following the incident.

Firefighters and police gather around a burned out pickup truck at the intersection of South Park and West Main streets shortly after 6:30 a.m. Jan. 5. According to police, the vehicle caught fire shortly after first responders pulled the driver, Reynaldo Lopez, 79, from the smoke-filled cab. (Staff photo by Margaret Palermo)

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A Uvalde Police Department dispatcher received a disturbing call at about 8:30 p.m. Jan. 3 from an elderly man announcing that there was going to be a murder-suicide.

Elias Varela, 79, who made his home in the 300 block of North East Lane, said something to the effect of “It is time,” and hung up.

The dispatcher immediately notified officers who responded within moments. According to Police Chief Bob MacDonald, they knocked on the door, but it was too late. “The 44-year-old woman had already been shot and killed before they got there,” he said.

Unsure of just what was going on inside the house, police got on the radio and requested that first responders to the scene turn off their lights and sirens, then headlights, and park a block away from the scene until they got the all-clear from officers already there.

At some point, Varela shot himself in the chest. “He was still alive when we got there and we airlifted him to San Antonio where he died in a hospital,” said MacDonald.

MacDonald said it appeared the female victim, Rosemary Barrera, 44, of the 100 block of School Lane, and Varela were living together and that she was his “significant other or girlfriend.”

He said Varela left a note, but details of what was in the note were not available.

Second suicide

In an unrelated second incident Monday, Uvalde police got a call from the Comal County Sheriff’s Office saying they had gotten a call from a woman who said her husband threatened to come to Victoria and kill her.

According to MacDonald, the Comal Sheriff’s Office got a cell phone number for the husband and traced the call to Uvalde. “We found his car at the American Best Value Inn. They talked to him on the phone and by the time the officer got to the room, he heard a single gunshot,” said MacDonald. He said the officer forced entry into the room and found that Steven Nickle, 35, address unknown, had shot himself in the head with a rifle.