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UPDATE: Police recover body from Red River after daylong search

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OUR OPINION: Quick arrests suggest smart policing

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks Herald
(701) 780-1123 customer support
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

On Tuesday of last week, Jose Luis “Joe” Lopez was shot and killed in his apartment in Grand Forks.

By Saturday, police had arrested the two suspects.

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And that’s good police work, judging by — among other factors — the timeline of events.

This case remains in its very early stages, and a lot can happen between now and the time the suspects go on trial. For example, maybe Delvin Lamont Shaw, 29, and Dametrian Marcel Welch, 18, both of Winston-Salem, N.C., are innocent. Our justice system gives them the benefit of that doubt until a jury pronounces otherwise.

Maybe problems will surface with the way they were arrested or the way the police handled evidence. Our system rightly holds law enforcers to high standards on such issues.

But even with those qualifications in mind, it’s impressive that only four days after the initial 911 call, two suspects had been identified, tracked and apprehended. And that’s especially true considering that Shaw reportedly had fled as far as St. Paul.

Such quick work by police looks easy or inevitable only in hindsight. In reality, the case could have unfolded any number of ways, especially if officials had made different decisions in the early hours after the shooting.

Who to interview? What to focus on? Where do you begin, when your Ground Zero is a living-room scene of anguished family members and shocking violence?

Confronting such a scene would test anyone’s faculties, including the focus and lucidity of veteran police officers. But the Grand Forks Police Department identified and arrested Welch within 36 hours of the event. And only three days after that, Shaw was brought into custody, this time with the help of the St. Paul police and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Shaw, as mentioned, had fled 325 miles to a residence in St. Paul, according to police. Again, that’s clear in hindsight; “of course” he went there, and “of course” police tracked him down.

But if you put a pin in Grand Forks and draw a circle with a radius of 1,000 miles, you’ll cover much of North America, with a whole lot of residences and a great many other places where someone could hide. A person fleeing Grand Forks could choose from countless destinations; and assuming events unfolded the way police say they did, then you can credit smart investigating with keeping officers on Shaw’s trail.

Murders in Grand Forks remain relatively rare. History and culture have something to do with that. And law enforcement does, too — especially the kind of effective, no-nonsense law enforcement that was on display in the past few days. The Police Department and all others who helped out deserve the community’s thanks.

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Tom Dennis
(701) 780-1276
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