By Gina Kim
STANISLAUS, CA – After clearing up discrepancies between the alleged victim’s initial police statement and later testimony under cross-examination, a Stanislaus County Superior Court last week in a preliminary hearing found probable cause for a man’s felony assault with a deadly weapon and carrying an unregistered concealed firearm.
Early in the hearing, the victim clarified she had called the police for something she “wasn’t honest about.” However, her actions were motivated by fear. “I knew my son’s father had a gun, and I was worried what would happen next,” she explained.
The accused father of the victim’s son, Edgar Lopez, had a history of altercations with the victim’s romantic partners following their separation four years ago, the court was told.
Tensions escalated Sept. 1, 2020, around 10:30 a.m., said the victim, when Lopez drove to the victim’s residence, confronting the victim’s current partner again. The victim’s partner rushed inside to warn her Lopez was armed. Fearful the fight would escalate, the victim called the police.
“I just didn’t want it to get out of control,” she stated. “There were previous times when he [Lopez] approached my partner trying to fight him multiple times, and there were times when (he) and his friends would try to hurt my partner. This time he came to my house and had a gun, so I just knew it was getting worse.”
Deputy District Attorney Adam Bills inquired whether the victim ever saw the gun. The victim admitted she did not, despite telling Officer Edgar Canchola that Lopez had exited his vehicle, pulled a gun out, rapped it, pointed it, then called her a “b*tch” before going back into his vehicle and driving off.
When the defense asked her to verify her initial police statement once more, the victim broke into tears. She admitted to never seeing Lopez that day, only his car while he drove off.
“Sorry, I just wanted him to stop fighting with me, with us, it was going for years, he didn’t do anything wrong, but I didn’t want it to get to that point,” she said.
Although the victim’s partner was there when authorities arrived, he “wouldn’t cooperate with the police at all.” Even throughout the trial process the victim’s partner still refused to cooperate. “That’s why I needed help,” the victim stated. “I needed it to stop.”
Canchola was the first officer to catch Lopez driving in his sports car, and had him in custody by the time Deputy Sheriff Josef Riggs arrived. Lopez revealed he kept a firearm in the front passenger seat of his vehicle. Riggs found the Polymer 80 Glock-styled handgun in a red backpack sitting on the floorboard, as well as a rolled-up magazine holding seven rounds of ammunition.
In his initial statement, Lopez did not admit to possessing a firearm. It wasn’t until later that Lopez “changed his story,” claiming he pointed the gun at them in self-defense, stated Riggs.
Upon further questioning, Lopez informed the police officer he had driven to his “baby mama’s house” only to find her current partner standing outside. Lopez exited his vehicle and entered a verbal altercation, to which the victim’s current partner pulled out a tire iron. In response, Lopez claimed he got back inside his vehicle and left.
After performing a records check, authorities found the firearm was not registered. “There was nothing on file for that firearm,” Riggs stated.
Judge Kelley Westbrooke voiced concern over whether Lopez’ charge could be considered brandishing a firearm in public or assault with a deadly weapon.
DDA Bills maintained assault was an appropriate description for the case, given that the action of pointing a firearm directly at the victim, as opposed to pointing it away toward the ground, rendered the firearm “more operable” and “one step further to a shot.”
Moreover, the added sound of rapping from the gun would elicit fear. That, combined with verbal insult, elevated Lopez’ charge to assault.
“The law doesn’t require us to show force was applied,” Bills argued. “Pointing and rapping a firearm is an act by its nature that would probably result in application of force.”
Judge Westbrooke determined there was probable cause for all counts of assault and unregistered concealment of a firearm.
The court will reconvene for an arraignment hearing and trial setting Feb. 8.