Woman Who Got Millions After Police Shooting Accused Of Arming Gangs

Woman Who Got Millions After Police Shooting Accused Of Arming Gangs
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

Back in 2017, Christina Lopez’s 16-year old son was fatally shot by a police office in Fresno, California. Lopez filed a civil suit against the city, and earlier this year accepted a nearly $5-million settlement. Now police and prosecutors in Fresno say that Lopez used a portion of that money to purchase guns for her 14-year old son, who turned around and sold them to “fellow gang members.”

Lopez and her son are now facing a number of criminal offenses, including conspiracy to provide firearms to a minor for the benefit of a street gang, and according to Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp, Lopez could be looking at spending the next ten years behind bars.

Lopez’s arrest on Thursday is part of a larger investigation into gang activity in Fresno County, police said. The case revolves around the death of 52-year-old Javier Fernandez, who was fatally shot on July 9 near his home in Malaga, Calif., about seven miles southeast of Fresno.

Police allege Jesse Aguilar, a 47-year-old member of the Calwa street gang who is serving a life sentence in prison for a 2014 murder, “was directing teenagers belonging to the gang to commit murders,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret A. Mims said at Friday’s news conference.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of the county’s gang task force, arrested 14 people and seized 12 firearms. Among those facing charges are an 18-year-old, four 19-year-olds and a 13-year-old.

Lopez’s 14-year-old son was also arrested and faces felony charges for gun possession, conspiracy to commit crimes and street gang enhancements, according to law enforcement.

Smittcamp, the district attorney, said Lopez used her settlement money from the city of Fresno to buy the guns that her son then sold to other gang members — actions that should make people “sick to their stomach.”

“The behavior of this woman is some of the most egregious criminality that I have ever seen,” Smittcamp continued. “ … [I]t is just horrendous to me that she could do this.”

Smittcamp accused Lopez of encouraging the gang activity “by providing the financial means” to buy guns.

Of course Lopez hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, and her attorney says the charges are “completely contrary to everything we know about her.” Julia Sherman, who was Lopez’s lawyer in the civil case against the city, went on to say that the charges “reek of retaliation” for Lopez being awarded millions of dollars for her son’s death.

I’m willing to consider that possibility, but it seems to me that the allegations are pretty straightforward. Still though, there are some important details missing from the reporting I’ve seen. How many guns did Lopez purchase, and did she provide money for others to purchase guns? Not only does California have a universal background check law, but it also has a gun rationing scheme in place that limits purchases of firearms to one every 30 days. If she only received her settlement earlier this year, it seems unlikely that she would have been responsible for all twelve firearms recovered in the course of the Fresno police investigation, unless she was providing cash so that others could buy guns intended for gang members.

If these allegations are true, then not only does it indicate the pervasiveness of gang culture, but the utter futility of California’s gun control laws. Neither the state’s microstamping law, “assault weapons” ban, magazine ban, gun rationing law, ammunition background check law, universal background checks, 10-day waiting period of firearm purchases, or any of the other restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms were able to prevent Lopez from allegedly acquiring guns for her son’s gang. It sounds like Lopez was able to avoid detection, at least until the gang task force moved in and started collecting evidence.

The truth is that California’s gun control laws aren’t about crime prevention, but inhibiting the exercise of a constitutionally protected right. Given the anti-gun attitudes that dominate debate in Sacramento, the only way these laws are coming off the books anytime soon is by court order, but that shouldn’t stop Second Amendment activists in the state from pointing out the failures of these laws when cases like Lopez’s come to light.