Timothy Lopez

Timothy Lopez

New Mexico State Police is investigating claims that a Rio Arriba County winery owner facing a murder charge built a bunker on his property that he intended to use to kill a man who he says committed rape.

Timothy Lopez, owner of Wicked Kreations Winery, is accused of fatally shooting Thomas “Derick” Velarde at a gas station in Alcalde during an argument late last month. Lopez, who remains in custody, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Friends of both Velarde, who was 58, and Lopez, 53, told state police that they recalled conversations with Lopez in which he told them Velarde had raped a woman and he planned to “sniper” Velarde from a bunker he allegedly built on the northwest side of his property, according to an affidavit filed in First Judicial District Court earlier this week.

According to online documents, Velarde had not been charged with rape.

Investigators believe the bunker shows Lopez may have had previous plans to shoot Velarde, according to the affidavit.

Lopez pulled into a La Tiendita gas station to deliver wine Nov. 26 when he confronted Velarde as he sat in his car, police said in a criminal complaint.

Lopez told police he drew his gun and tapped on Velarde’s window and told him to “face him like a man.” Velarde broke his own vehicle’s window and lunged at Lopez as he stood with his gun in hand, Lopez told police, and a struggle for the gun ensued. The weapon discharged, striking Velarde in the head.

Lopez then entered the gas station and told employees to call 911 because he shot someone, police said. Lopez was at the scene when police arrived and was taken into custody.

Following Lopez’s arrest, a Velarde resident sent photos to investigators of a sign between Lopez and Velarde’s residence that read “Derick Velarde Rapist Dead Man I Catch You I kill U Pig,” according to the affidavit.

Upon executing a search warrant, two additional signs, including one reading “Derick caught on video rapist,” were found on the ground, according to the affidavit. The signs were written in the same handwriting as the signs sent to investigators after Lopez was arrested, police said.

A hearing to determine if Lopez will be released on bail is scheduled for Jan. 7.

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