Ad Campaign Designed to Cut Violent Crime

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno has seen a pretty drastic increase in gun crime over the last few years -- almost doubling -- to the point that there's now more than one shooting every day. But a law born out of tragedy in Fresno could help put the shooters in prison and keep them there a long time.

Joey Jesse Lopez is a cold-blooded killer. Surveillance cameras caught the 27-year-old shooting and killing a stranger who was just doing his job as a beer delivery truck driver.

Lopez is now in prison on a life sentence. He could've been eligible for parole at the age of 53, but because of California's so-called "10-20-life" law, he can't get a whiff of freedom until he's at least 78 years old.

A new "10-20-life" ad campaign was rolled out Wednesday. Billboards, TV spots, and bumper stickers remind the public that pulling a gun during a crime means an extra 10 years in prison; pulling the trigger means an extra 20; and killing or seriously injuring someone with a gun means an added 25 to life.

"I guarantee you, one conviction and they're gone," said Mike Reynolds. "When they say 'Use a gun and you're done,' this really means it."

Reynolds championed the tough sentencing into law back in 1998, as he did with the "Three Strikes" law, after his daughter, Kimber, was shot to death.

After an initial ad campaign, the percentage of robberies, assaults and homicides in Fresno involving guns dropped 42% in 1998. But as police departments have cut manpower to meet budgets, and prisons and jails release inmates early, officers say criminals have gone back to the old ways.

"They see no consequences," said Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer. "And the message we're sending today is there are consequences and those consequences are severe."

Some defense attorneys say the "10-20-life" laws are unfair and overused by prosecutors, and a similar law is being challenged in Florida. But Reynolds says that just shows the law is working.

"Anytime you have a law that's locking up criminals, criminals have attorneys and crying mothers that want to suddenly undo the laws," he said.

And when Joey Jesse Lopez got an extended sentence, his victim's family members said the law helped them finally get justice.

The "Three Strikes" law is being challenged in a ballot measure this November, but the "10-20-life" law has not seen any significant challenges in California.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.