A California mother of six who was awarded $4.9 million in damages after police shot and killed her unarmed 16-year-old son has been using the money to buy guns, prosecutors say – which her 14-year-old son then sold to gang members.
Christina Lopez, 42, was arrested at her home in Madera, 20 miles north west of Fresno.
Christina Lopez, a 42-year-old mother of six, has been arrested and accused of using a $4.9 million settlement for the killing of her son to buy guns for her 14-year-old
She was one of 14 people detained following a three-month-long investigation into a July murder carried out by members of the Calwa gang. The 14 arrested were mainly teenagers – the youngest only 13.
Lopez faces felony charges of conspiracy to provide firearms to a minor for the benefit of a street gang, child endangerment and conspiracy to provide a firearm to a gang member.
Prosecutors said that Lopez used the cash from an April settlement with Fresno police – the largest in the city’s history – to buy guns.
‘As a mother and a prosecutor and a citizen of this county for my entire life, this is some of the most despicable behavior I’ve ever seen from a human being,’ said Lisa Smittcamp, Fresno county district attorney, at a press conference on Friday announcing the arrests.
Smittcamp said that Lopez’s actions 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.
‘It 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.
She was awarded the money after Fresno police shot and killed her son Isiah Murrietta-Golding in April 2017.
Lopez, of Madera, California, was accused by the Fresno district attorney of ‘the most egregious criminality that I have ever seen’
Fresno County sheriffs seized 12 firearms (pictured) and made 14 arrests to take down a criminal gang believed to be behind a July murder. The gang were believed to be controlled from prison by Jesse Aguilar, 47
He and his brother were being sought for the murder of 19-year-old Eugenio Ybarra the day before. His brother, who was a minor and never named, handed himself in the night Murrietta-Golding died, and pleaded guilty to the killing.
Isiah Murrietta-Golding, 16, was shot and killed by police in Fresno in April 2017
Murrietta-Golding was stopped by police in his car at a shopping mall, and got out of the vehicle and ran.
Murrietta-Golding is seen in surveillance camera footage jumping over a fence surrounding a day care facility.
Sgt Ray Villalvazo – one of the two officers chasing the teen – then draws his gun and fires a single shot through the fence, shooting Murrietta-Golding in the head.
Villalvazo’s partner can be heard telling him in the background: ‘Good shot.’
An investigation conducted by the City of Fresno’s Office of Independent Review later found that during the chase, the officers saw Murrietta-Golding repeatedly reach for his waistband while looking at them over his shoulder.
According to the investigation, Villalvazo opened fire believing that Murrietta-Golding was reaching for a gun. He was in fact unarmed.
This screenshot from a a surveillance video shows a Fresno, California, a police officer fatally shoot 16-year-old Isiah Murrietta-Golding in April 2017
Murrietta-Golding was a suspect in a homicide. He led police on a chase after a traffic stop, which ended in the yard of a day care center
After taking just eight steps in the yard, Sgt Ray Villalvazo (pictured behind the fence on the left) drew his gun and opened fire
The teen collapsed to the ground suffering from a gunshot wound to the back of the head
An investigation conducted by the Office of independent Review sided with police
Andrew Hall, chief of Fresno Police Department, defended his officers’ actions, saying in a statement that Murrietta-Golding and his 17-year-old brother were suspects in the killing of Ybarra.
‘The video represents a different vantage point and was not what the pursuing officers could see,’ Hall said.
‘The 16-year-old was also known to carry firearms and had jumped a fence into a child daycare center.’
But in April, after a four-year battle, the city settled with Murrietta-Golding’s mother.
She used the money to buy a five-bedroom home on five acres of land in a western suburb of the Central Valley city, public records show.
If found guilty of also purchasing the guns for her son, she faces 10 years in prison.
Ybarra died when his car crashed into a tree after two men fired shots at his car
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,’ said Margaret A. Mims, Fresno County sheriff.
Julia Sherwin, who represented Lopez in the civil rights lawsuit after her son’s death, told The Washington Post that the charges against Lopez were payback for the settlement.
‘The crimes alleged against her are completely contrary to everything we know about her,’ she said.
‘These criminal charges reek of retaliation for Christina winning the largest settlement against Fresno in its history.’
Lopez is still being held in jail, with bail set at $1.67 million.
Sherwin called the sum ‘ridiculous.’
‘Six of Christina’s living children are under the age of 10, including a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a 10-month-old,’ the attorney said.
‘She should be released so she can get back to raising her kids.’