She also spent thousands on guns, law enforcement said, and gave them to her 14-year-old son, who was selling them to fellow gang members.
Now, Lopez faces 22 charges, including child endangerment and conspiracy to provide firearms to a minor for the benefit of a street gang. She could serve up to 10 years in state prison, according to Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp. Her son was also charged.
“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,” Smittcamp said at a Friday news conference announcing the arrests.
But the alleged crimes are suspicious and possibly retributory, one of Lopez’s attorneys told The Washington Post in a statement.
“[T]he crimes alleged against her are completely contrary to everything we know about her,” said Julia Sherwin, who represented Lopez in the civil rights lawsuit after her son’s death. “These criminal charges reek of retaliation for Christina winning the largest settlement against Fresno in its history.”
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment regarding the retaliation allegations.
The settlement money came from the April 2017 death of Lopez’s son Isiah Murrietta-Golding. Fresno police said he was a murder suspect and pulled over the teen at a shopping center, according to the Fresno Bee. Soon after Murrietta-Golding got out of the car, he bolted away from the officers.
As he was fleeing, Sgt. Ray Villalvazo shot the teen in the back of the head. Body-camera footage released by Lopez’s lawyers recorded a fellow officer saying “good shot,” according to the Bee.
The police department said that it looked like Murrietta-Golding was reaching for a gun and that the officer feared for his life. But security footage and the body-cam video showed Murrietta-Golding pulling up his baggy pants after he jumped a fence.
Investigations by the Fresno Police Internal Affairs Bureau, district attorney’s office and Fresno Office of Independent Review all found the shooting was justified.
Murrietta-Golding’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit soon after. The city settled in April of this year.
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.
Fresno County law enforcement did not provide further information on the evidence that showed Lopez’s involvement.
It is unclear if the district attorney’s office is able to seize the money awarded to Lopez for her son’s fatal shooting. But Smittcamp noted that her team is looking into it.
Lopez does not yet have a criminal defense attorney. The judge set her bail at $1.67 million, according to Sherwin, one of the attorneys from the lawsuit.
Sherwin called the sum “ridiculous.”
“Six of Christina’s living children are under the age of 10, including a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 10-month-old,” the attorney said. “She should be released so she can get back to raising her kids.”