Senior citizen claims self-defense in killing of gang member nephew

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A senior citizen with no criminal history is on trial for murder after killing a known gang member.

The Fresno County jail couldn't hold Michael Lopez after gang officers arrested him in March 2013, so after a few hours in custody, he returned to Parlier and his mother's home.

In short order, he asserted his position in the home to his uncle Robert, who also lived in the apartment.

"(He got) approximately a foot to six inches away from his face and said 'I'm the boss. I'm back in town'," said defense attorney Jason Sorensen.

We're not allowed to show video from inside the courtroom where 71-year-old Robert Lopez is on trial for what happened next. But everyone agrees the family feud devolved quickly.

Robert Lopez went back to his bedroom, grabbed a pistol and killed Michael. His defense attorney says it was his only option.

"If he didn't kill Michael, Michael was going to kill him and he was scared for his life," Sorensen said.

Prosecutors admit Michael Lopez was not a good man and a repeat felon. They admit Robert Lopez was scared. But they say the real reason he killed his nephew was because he didn't like Michael.

"The feeling that him being scared gave him was not scared of imminent threat of great bodily injury or death," said prosecutor Bob Whalen. "You will learn it made him scared and he did not like being made scared. He had never been scared before in his life."

Robert Lopez fired four times before his sister stepped in and tried to wrestle the gun away. His attorney says he was sarcastic and unapologetic when he admitted what he did to Fresno County sheriff's detectives. Even then, he claimed it was self-defense. But now, he could spend the rest of his life in prison if a jury decides it was not.
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