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Hudson Valley Double Murder/Suicide Shooter: Trustee, Police Chief's Friend

Efrain Lopez, 55
Efrain Lopez, 55 Photo Credit: Village of Ellenville

This story has been updated.

When Police Chief Philip Mattracion responded to a murder-suicide in the Hudson Valley Village of Ellenville Thursday morning, he never expected to find one that one of his closest friends had shot and killed two people and then turned the gun on himself.

"I just spoke with him last night and he was joking and laughing," Mattracion said. "This is just so sad for all involved and I'm questioning why I didn't see or notice something last night with all my years of law enforcement."

The Ulster County murder-suicide took place around 10 a.m. when Ellenville Village Trustee Efrain Lopez, 55, shot and killed his former domestic partner, Margarita Soto, 55, her male friend, Jose Cruz, 55, and then himself, the chief said.

Using a rifle, the events unfolded when Lopez approached a red car parked in the parking lot of the Canal Lock apartment complex and shot the driver, Cruz, as he parked the car and got out. Lopez then turned the gun on Soto, before shooting himself.

Immediately following the shooting, police began receiving 911 calls reporting the shooting. Initial reports said the shooting suspect had fled on foot near the Ellenville school complex and district schools were placed on lockdown as a precaution, the chief, who is also the president of the Ellenville School Board said.

Lopez, a Democrat, has spent more than 20 years on the Board of Trustees and worked for the school board on the maintenance crew for more than 30 years, Mattracion said.

“I have personally known Mr. Lopez for 30 years,” Mattracion said. ”This is a tragedy for all involved, including myself."

Mattracion described Lopez a "great guy who would give you the shirt off his back and do anything to help someone in need."

When the chief suffered a heart attack two years ago, Lopez came and shoveled his snow for days on end and then would not take a penny, the chief added.

"It's just so hard when there is this type of event, there were no warning signs," he added.

He added that there was an ongoing domestic dispute, but that there was never any police involvement or calls relating to the issue.

Mattracion said the victims had been dating for a short time.

The investigation is ongoing. Village police were assisted by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, state police, and numerous other agencies.

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