Break-In or Burglary: Defendant Confesses, Says He Just Wanted to Sleep

By Koda Slingluff, Aakanksha Patel, Benjamin Porter

WOODLAND, CA – Defendant Joseph Arthur Lopez faced the preliminary stage of his trial for multiple burglary charges Monday in Dept. 11 of the Yolo County Superior Court.

The witness testimonies were a whirlwind, with Deputy Public Defender Erin Dacayanan using one officer’s testimony, where she said Lopez admitted to a break-in, as evidence that the break-in wasn’t the charged felony burglary.

Lopez’s preliminary hearing centered on two incidents, the first of which occurred on May 2020 at a Davis marijuana dispensary, with the second taking place almost a year later in May of this year across several locations in downtown Davis.

On May 26, 2020, Davis Police Officer Keirith Briesenick responded to an alarm at the Kana Company, a marijuana dispensary at 1605 2nd Street in Davis.

Upon arriving, Officer Briesenick and the on-duty security guard heard additional alarms and noticed a broken window on a separate building on the property, as well as a bicycle propped up against a fence.

After clearing the building, beginning to process the scene, viewing security camera footage showing a suspect, and starting to write up a report back at the police station, the police station got a call at the front counter from a subject missing his bicycle.

“I walked up to the front of the building and talked to the subject missing his bicycle, and recognized some things including tattoos that I had noticed on the video that matched this person that was now asking about his bike,” Officer Briesenick testified.

“I placed him in the back of the police car and began to fill out the paperwork to transport him to jail when he began asking what I call procedural questions; how can I get my bike back, can I stop by my house and get medication. He asked to speak to a bail bondsman. But then he asked me other things. He asked, ‘Can I be honest with you?’” She continued.

Hearing this, Officer Briesenick told Lopez, “Yes please, always be honest.”

“He said ‘I did it,’” she stated to the courtroom.

In cross-examination, PD Dacayanan emphasized how, interestingly, no property was reported as missing by the store. This aligns well with the defense’s building argument—that Lopez had no intention to steal, and was instead looking for shelter.

Dacayanan acknowledged what Officer Briesenick had said about Lopez confessing, but added more to the picture by saying, “You stated Mr. Lopez told you he did it and said he wanted to be honest with you. Did he also tell you he just went inside to go to sleep?”

“Yes,” Officer Briesenick confirmed.

Discussing Count 1, Dacayanan chose to argue that the prosecutor did not show sufficient evidence to move forward with a burglary charge. For felony burglary, California requires that prosecution prove unlawful entry and an intent to commit theft or a felony.

Dacayanan argued, “I don’t think we have shown there is any intent to commit theft or any felony from the entry of any person into this storage area. While there may have been an entry and while Mr. Lopez may have said ‘yeah I did it,’ he said he went inside because he wanted to sleep. So I don’t think there’s any intent here to commit theft, or any other felony.”

DDA Johnson rejected Dacayanan’s argument, saying, “I would say the fact that he broke the window, that he was inside the store, that he was moving the motion detectors, meant he had an intent to commit some sort of a theft.”

While the prosecutor mentioned that it would be strange to want to sleep at that time of morning, the defense surprisingly did not address how someone intending only to sleep indoors without being caught would be just as motivated to evade the motion detectors as someone intending to commit theft would be.

Following the discussion, Judge Timothy L. Fall moved onto the second charge against Lopez—a more complex, more recent burglary scenario.

On May 18, 2021, a series of break-ins and robberies occurred along G Street in downtown Davis at Village Pizza and Grill, Thai Nakorn, and the Davis Food Co-op. Corporal Alex Torres of the Davis Police Department explained to the court what he saw early that morning while driving up G Street.

“Blocking the lane for southbound traffic was an unopened container of bacon and also a large 12 pack of water bottles—a crate or a flat,” Corporal Torres said. Since the items had labels from the Davis Food Co-op, Torres went there to investigate further with the help of Mike Van Berg, a manager at the Co-op.

“[Van Berg] said when he arrived that morning, the inside of the Co-op, things were out of place—he believed they had been burglarized,” Corporal Torres said, adding that drawers in an office area and refrigeration doors on a meat shelf in the store had been opened, with “several rows” of meat now missing. Lastly, multiple wine bottles had been moved off of the shelf and onto the floor, creating a tripping hazard.

Lopez, matching the description of the suspect seen on the surveillance footage, was eventually spotted at his apartment at 715 G Street, which is adjacent to the Co-op.

Officer Ryan Mez helped search the apartment, finding many of the clothing items seen on the footage, as well as a master key to the Co-op. His freezer contained vacuum sealed containers of meat, which the defense argued Lopez could have in fact purchased rather than stolen.

Judge Fall determined there was sufficient evidence for both the burglary counts to go forward into trial. The third count, felony vandalism, was insufficient because the district attorney did not find out the cost of the lost property.

“It can’t go forward as a felony vandalism, so there’s no holding order there unless the people think they have enough for a misdemeanor vandalism and they want to put that there” Judge Fall said.

“So I’m not making a finding on that one way or another except to say it doesn’t stand as a felony vandalism. So no holding order on Count 3 for that purpose,” he added.

Court proceedings will continue with an arraignment and trial setting July 6 in Yolo’s Dept. 8.

Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.

Aakanksha Patel is a fourth year student studying Communications and Public Affairs at UCLA. She is from San Jose, California.

Benjamin Porter graduated from UC Davis in 2020 with a BA in Music and a BS in Environmental Policy Analysis & Planning. He is originally from Seattle, WA.

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