The parents of Jacob Lopez, the rapper who was shot and killed last year outside his Citrus Heights apartment, lost faith in Sacramento’s criminal justice system when the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue murder charges against the man who killed their son.
Citrus Heights police charged Tony Diaz with murder and possessing a machine gun. Diaz claimed self-defense, ended up pleading no contest to the gun charge and was sentenced to 180 days in county jail.
Diaz was found last week at home with multiple guns and ammunition on the property and violated probation, according to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
Jacob’s parents think that Diaz is a threat to the public and that the Sacramento DA has allowed him to go free.
“He’s going to do the same thing,” said Stephanie Lopez, Jacob’s mother. “The DA didn’t pursue the case because they said it wasn't a ‘slam dunk’ and that Diaz claimed self-defense.”
The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office was asked about its decision to not prosecute Diaz for murder last year after Diaz again got into trouble for having illegal firearms.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett responded by saying the matter is a pending criminal prosecution and ethical obligations prevent him from discussing the facts of a pending case.
“They're the ones responsible for this,” said Nathan Lopez, Jacob’s father. “There is a big loophole in the system.”
Jacob’s mother doesn’t know how the community can be safe if all cases like Jacob’s have to be “slam dunks.”
“When are we going to step up and protect our community better?” said Stephanie.
The Lopez family has not received any assistance from the DA’s office or their victim’s advocate.
“I have to take my grandchild to therapy because of what happened to my son,” Nathan said. “They haven’t helped us with anything.”
Victims of violent crimes are entitled to as much as $70,000 in compensation for medical and mental health services, funeral expenses and lost wages, according to the California Victims Compensation Board (CalVCB).
The Lopez’s said they were told by their victims’ advocate with the DA’s office that since Diaz wasn’t charged with murder, they could not get victims’ compensation.
CalVCB’s website states that part of the criteria to receive compensation is that a crime was committed that could be charged as a felony at the time the qualifying crime occurred.
“They haven’t helped us with anything,” Stephanie said. “They don’t even call us back most of the time.”
She said they were not told Diaz was released from jail until the following day.
Jacob’s father was also upset with reports that his son and Diaz knew each other.
Early media reports stated that police believed that Diaz and Lopez knew each other, which is not true, according to Lopez’s parents and the Citrus Heights Police Department.
A detective with Citrus Heights PD told Jacob’s father that there was no contact between Diaz and Jacob on their phones or social media messages.
Jacob’s fiancé told detectives she did not know who Diaz was and he was not known by Jacob either.
“All of this info led us to believe the knowledge Diaz had of Jacob was primarily through Jacob's rap career and following him via the posts Jacob made,” the detective told Jacob’s father.
Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius has been advocating for the Lopez family and said someone who has shown that they don’t value life needs to face the appropriate consequences.
“A person who has been charged, twice already, with a gun and to just give him a slap on the wrist,” Accius said. “That’s foolish thinking.”
Accius is frustrated with the accessibility to guns.
“Young people can find a gun before they can find an opportunity,” Accius said. “I applaud police for getting guns off the street but I would love to see gun dealers get off the street.”
Jacob’s mother said she spoke to Sacramento County Supervisor Rich Desmond about their case but he was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.