© Clyde Mueller
New Mexico State Police officer Bert Lawrence Lopez, left, pictured during a January DWI checkpoint on Agua Fría Street, has been fired. A surveillance camera caught him having sex with a woman on the hood of a car at La Bajada Ranch while in uniform.
The New Mexico State Police officer who was photographed having sex on the hood of a Honda is no longer a cop.

Bert Lopez was informed late this week that the Department of Public Safety has fired him, The New Mexican has learned.

It is unclear when that decision was made as agency spokesman Sgt. Tim Johnson has declined to comment until all appeals have been exhausted.

"It is an embarrassing situation for the department, but we have to remember the rights of the employee afford him due process we must follow so we won't be commenting further," Johnson said.

But when asked Friday evening if Lopez was still employed with the New Mexico State Police, Johnson said, "No."

As of Wednesday when the security surveillance photos of Lopez had gone viral, state police said Lopez was still with the department and had been on paid administrative pending an investigation.

Lopez, who could not be reached for comment, has 30 days to appeal the firing. That appeal goes to a special commission within the New Mexico State Police Department and then state District Court.

Johnson would also not comment on whether the change in Lopez's employment status was an indication whether the officer was in fact on duty at the time of the incident in question. Police have said they are assured the sexual encounter was not in exchange for anything related to Lopez's position as a law enforcement officer and was not criminal.

Lopez was named the 2009 District 1 Officer of the Year for state police and was awarded a "Challenge Coin" in July, an honor given to officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Earlier this month, an employee with Santa Fe County came across surveillance photos taken from a motion-triggered security camera positioned at the front gate of the county-owned La Bajada Ranch south of Santa Fe. Two of those photos showing a uniformed officer having sex on the hood of a Honda were forwarded to Santa Fe Sheriff Robert Garcia, who identified the officer as being with New Mexico State Police. He forwarded the images to Robert Shilling, state police chief.

An internal affairs investigation was launched immediately, police have said, and Lopez was on paid leave for about three weeks. It is unclear when the photos were taken, but Garcia said he believed it was either late July or early August.