Family of Jefferson Square murder suspect says his mental illness crushed two families

Family of Jefferson Square murder suspect says his mental illness crushed two families
Tyler Charles Gerth, 27, was pronounced dead in the park shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.
Tyler Charles Gerth, 27, was pronounced dead in the park shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. (Source: Family Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Steven Lopez, the man charged with firing into a crowd at Louisville’s Jefferson Square Park Saturday night and killing photographer Tyler Gerth, 27, faced a judge Tuesday. During his arraignment, Lopez, 23, had his bond set at $500,000.

He’s charged with one count of murder and nine counts of wanton endangerment.

Lopez’s grandparents spoke with WAVE 3 News on Tuesday and said their grandson needs mental help, but they believe he’s fallen through the cracks.

Michael Arnett, Lopez’s grandfather, said he was frozen watching news coverage of his grandson’s alleged actions that police believe led to Gerth’s death.

“I feel so sorry for his parents, the other boy’s parents. I feel for them,” Arnett said.

As for his grandson, Arnett says he still cares for him, despite what he’s accused of.

“I just love him so much,” he said, wiping back a tear. “There are two families that have been crushed over this.“

Arnett and his wife raised Lopez from an early age. He explained that Lopez was only 2 years old when his mother was shot and killed in front of him.

He believes Lopez had a good childhood, but he was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication. His grandparents believe he is schizophrenic, but they said he behaves normally when he is medicated.

Lopez went to Iroquois High School, and Arnett said he had a job as a truck driver until about 7 months ago. When he lost his job, Arnett said his grandson started living out of the car they bought him instead of at their home.

Arnett soon noticed changes in Lopez’s personality. He said his grandson would be fine before quickly jumping into what seemed like another personality.

“Whenever you would see him walking down the street, he was talking to himself,” Arnett explained. “It’s like something just snapped in him. It’s hard to explain.”

He said Lopez was arrested for starting trouble at a neighbor’s home a few weeks ago. He and his wife were told by police that Lopez would get a mental evaluation.

“And then,” Arnett said,” “they just let him go.”

When his grandson returned home, Arnett said he saw him outside with a gun that Lopez claimed to have bought from someone.

“I said, ‘You do not need that gun,‘” Arnett explained.

He said Lopez then packed a bag and started staying at Jefferson Square Park with other protestors for at least a week before police say he fired at Gerth and others.

“I just can’t express enough how sorry I am to his parents,” Arnett said, “he was a good boy, a very good young man.”

Lopez will be back in court on July 8.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.