Ezequiel Lopez arrested after fatal shooting at landscaping business

By Heather Leigh - Reporter
Posted: 10:50 AM, March 10, 2016
Updated: 1:12 PM, March 10, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police said a 24-year-old man showed up for work at B&L Landscaping Co. on Wednesday morning, walked up to his 55-year-old supervisor, Andrew Little, and shot him in the back.

Little died at the scene.

Ezequiel Lopez was arrested by officers called to a report of a shooting at the business on Spaner Road, off U.S. 1 south of the Avenues Mall. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said officers blocked his car before he could leave the property. He was arrested without incident and charged with first-degree murder.

Lt. Steve Gallaher said Lopez told detectives that Little had disrespected him, treated him different and paid him less than other employees.

"There was a brief struggle between the two of them. Andrew Little fell to the ground and the suspect attempted to shoot Mr. Little again. They think the gun malfunctioned and the suspect then ran to his car," Gallaher said.

News4Jax learned that Lopez is an undocumented worker.

Witnesses reported hearing two gunshots.

A neighbor whose son-in-law works at the business said that after the first shot, the victim and the shooter wrestled for the gun. The victim died at the scene.

Employees at the business didn't want to talk about the incident, saying they were still grieving the loss and declined to comment.

Police said Little had worked for the company for 20 years or more and lived on site. Lopez had worked there for six years.

According to John Young, a neighbor whose son-in-law was in the office at the time of the shooting, Little worked at B&L Landscape for a long time and was a "good guy." Young said he frequently rides his bike past them and waved at the employees.

"He's going to be missed,” Young said. “I ride my bicycle every morning, and every morning he speaks or hollers out the window, 'What's going on?' all the time," Young said. " (He was a) good neighbor. He's going to be missed."

"I couldn't believe this morning that that would have happened to him. No way,” Young said. “My wife says we all come the same way, but we don't know how we're going to leave.”

Young said his wife tried to go to work but couldn't stop thinking about the incident and came home.

"He's been working there a real long time, probably as long as I’ve been there,” Young said. “I see him on the weekend. He stops by and talks to me a minute.”

It was the second workplace shooting in northeast Florida in three days. A relatively new employee brought a handgun to Jacksonville Granite about noon Monday and started firing. The handgun misfired a couple of times, but James Cameau shot one employee in the backside as the co-worker was running away. Cameau then took his own life.

Neighbors shocked by violent encounter

The landscaping business is well known in the community, and neighbors were shocked by the deadly shooting.

They said the area is typically quiet and the small business has been around for decades.

“This is a nice little street and area,” neighbor Haley Hudgens said. “It’s just shocking, crazy to think about.”

Neighbors who live down the road said they have never had problems with anyone at the business and have never seen police respond to the area.

They said they don't know why one employee would want to shoot and kill another.

“I came down the road, and I saw the police line, and so I walked over, and I saw the cars, and I ran into the house, and I asked my parents what happened, and he said somebody was murdered, and I’m like, 'What, that’s crazy,'” Hudgens said. “It breaks my heart. They’ve owned this company for a really long time, and I am sure they are just devastated, because they are an older couple, and they’ve owned this business for a long time and have a lot of property.”

Hudgens said her family goes past the business on a daily basis.

“We take our dog for walks down there every morning, and they are always busy,” Keith Hudgens said. “There’s probably a dozen workers there at that time in the morning.”

But Wednesday morning was different, with police cars and crime scene vans lining the streets. The entire business was blocked off as police investigated the shooting.

Keith Hudgens said it was hard to accept that a person was shot and killed just blocks away from where he lives.

“(It's) very peaceful. Everybody talks to us and admires our dog,” he said. “I haven't had any problems down there.”