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Father remembers two killed in Garfield Heights shooting: ‘They wanted to be somebody’

September 6, 2018

Father remembers two killed in Garfield Heights shooting: ‘They wanted to be somebody’

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — The father of a Garfield Heights High School senior and an aspiring nurse said his children were kind, loving, generous and wanted to make their dreams a reality.

“My kids were good kids,” Manuel Lopez said. “They were respectful and when we were together, they’d say ‘Daddy, don’t say that,’ when I had road rage and stuff.”

Manuel Lopez Jr., 17, and Giselle Lopez, 19, were shot and killed late Wednesday by their mother’s boyfriend, Matthew Nicholson, police said. He has been charged with two counts of murder and domestic violence.

Manuel Lopez, 56, said he and his ex-wife, America Polanco, met in Guatemala and soon moved to New York, then Cleveland, where they made their home with Manuel Lopez Jr., Giselle, and their oldest son Roberto Lopez, 21. The couple divorced between 2010 and 2011, when the children were small, but Manuel Lopez said he and his kids remained close.

His kids never told him about the abuse of their mother or what occurred inside the small bungalow on East 86th Street in Garfield Heights. Manuel Lopez said he would always ask if they were OK.

He said he would text his kids often and spent a few hours with Manuel Lopez Jr. before the fatal shooting. 

“I loved him,” Manuel Lopez told a cleveland.com reporter as they sat on the back porch of his two-story home on Cleveland’s West Side. “He always came to visit me.”

Manuel Lopez said his son helped him apply to a part-time job in Valley View about 2 p.m. Wednesday. He declined his father’s offer to buy him food and something to drink before running off to the gym, Manuel Lopez said, flexing, imitating his son’s muscles.

That was the last time he saw and spoke to his son, Manuel Lopez said. He and Giselle Lopez spoke briefly a few days ago.

Manuel Lopez Jr. wanted to be an electrician and planned to work at FirstEnergy  in Euclid where his mother works.

Giselle Lopez graduated with honors two years ago from Garfield Heights High School. She wanted to be a nurse and was juggling classes at Cuyahoga Community College while working at Walmart in Parma, her father said. 

“I asked her when she was going to come see me and she said next week,” Manuel sobbed, “but, she never got a chance to. She was really hard working.”

Manuel Lopez said his oldest son, Roberto, called him Thursday morning and told him what happened. Roberto is in the U.S. Army and stationed in Louisiana. He was to arrive in Cleveland Thursday evening to assist in funeral arrangements, Manuel Lopez said.

“I enjoyed the free time I had with them,” he said. “I gave them my love and they knew it. I did the best I could. Maybe it happened because God had other plans for them, for me.”

The death of his children hasn’t quite settled with Manuel Lopez, and he’s unsure if it ever will. He knew “they wanted to be somebody” and he was looking forward to helping Giselle buy books for classes later this month. He’ll also miss warning Manuel Lopez Jr., about swallowing too many energy drinks before he worked out.

Nearly 12 hours after the shooting, Manuel Lopez and members of his church gathered on the front porch of his home, hiding from the pelting rain, and prayed in a circle.

“I always prayed for them,” he said. “It is my hope that God will let us meet again.”

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