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Fiancée: Victim died protecting his family

GRAND FORKS — Even after he was shot, 24-year-old Jose Luis “Joe” Lopez was fighting to drive intruders out of his apartment and away from his family, said his fiancée, Kelsie Waller.

Lopez died of gunshot wounds Tuesday after he was shot during a break-in at his and Waller’s Grand Forks apartment.

Waller said she and Lopez were in their living room when two intruders kicked the door open in the middle of the night.

“There was no knock or anything,” she said, contrary to court documents’ version of the break-in.

Waller said she shook Joe, who upon seeing the intruders, pushed Waller back and ran toward them.

“(Joe’s) main thing was making sure Harper and I were safe,” she said, referring to their 2-year-old daughter. “It’s all that was in his mind to get them out of our apartment.”

After Lopez was shot, he still managed to drive the intruders out of the apartment. It wasn’t until Waller went to call 911 that they finally fled, leaving Waller unharmed and Lopez suffering from gunshot wounds.

He was transported to Altru Hospital, where he died of his injuries Tuesday morning.

Waller said that four years together “wasn’t long enough.” The two had been planning to move to Waller’s hometown of Hatton, N.D., which was closer to Lopez’s job with Motor Coach Industries in Pembina, N.D.

“(Hatton) was like his second home,” she said.

With another baby on the way, the two wanted to settle down and get married. Waller said he had been hoping for another daughter.

She said Lopez was “really bummed out” when they learned their first child was to be a girl, but after she was born, it was a different story.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t believe I didn’t want a girl,’” said Waller, noting that Lopez liked being the father figure to Harper. “I think that he experienced a love that he never knew was possible.”

Waller said the support of friends and family is pulling her through her fiancé’s sudden death and that she is “happy to hear at least one of (the suspects) was off the streets.”

The suspect behind bars, Dametrian Marcel Welch, 18, of Winston-Salem, N.C., appeared in court for his initial appearance Friday afternoon. He is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit burglary, both felonies.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 28 and his bond was set at $500,000 due to the severity of the charge, the fact that his alleged co-conspirator is still on the loose and Welch’s criminal history.

The judge alluded to prior violent behavior for which it appears Welch was brought to juvenile court last year.

The other suspect in the murder, Delvin Lamont Shaw, 29, also of Winston-Salem, is still on the run from police. Shaw is charged with murder and burglary and is the one thought to have actually shot Lopez, according to court documents.

The charge of murder has a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

Lopez’s funeral takes place today at 11 a.m. at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of Park River, N.D.