‘Ghost gun’ used in killing of Fresno County police officer

The suspect accused of killing a police officer in a small Fresno County community this week fired the fatal shots from a “ghost gun,” untraceable firearms that are increasingly available and of concern, officials said Friday.

Police officers found the gun – which was allegedly used to fatally shoot Selma Officer on Duty Gonzalo Carrasco Jr. – discarded not far from where the suspect, Nathaniel Dixon, was arrested Tuesday, the Fresno County Sheriff said, John Zanoni, on Friday. The sheriff said ghost guns are often made illegally by 3D printers or ordered online and “cannot be traced or traced.” The weapon was a .223 caliber assault rifle and had no serial number, Zanoni said.

“This person was a convicted felon, he had no right to own this weapon,” Zanoni said.

Dixon appeared in court Friday for the first time since the murder, charged with first-degree murder, with additional corrals for killing a police officer and a criminal in possession of a firearm, according to Fresno County Dist. atty Lisa A. Smithcamp. The 23-year-old is being held without bail at the Fresno County Jail.

Though Zanoni highlighted the ghost gun allegedly used by Dixon at a Friday news conference, neither he nor other Fresno-area law enforcement agencies were calling for changes to gun laws — instead, they continued to hammer attention to prison reform legislation, which they say allowed Dixon to exit prematurely into jail.

“This experiment in our criminal justice reform in California isn’t working,” Zanoni said. “To prevent something like this from happening again … you have to do it a bit politically to get the message across.”

Even as the small town of Fresno County still teetered on the brink of losing its first officer on duty — who was fatally shot Tuesday in the mostly Latino city of fewer than 25,000 — local law enforcement officials didn’t shy away from politicizing Carrasco’s death.

“This is political,” said Smittcamp, a Republican in the historically conservative county, who turned red in the last gubernatorial race. “He won’t die in vain if one of us can do something about it.”

Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz said Carrasco, a father-to-be, was “essentially executed”.

Around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Carrasco was responding to concerns about a “man suspicious” in a neighborhood west of Highway 99 in Selma, according to the Fresno Sheriff’s Office, which took over the investigation into the shooting. Carrasco tried to get close to the man, but the man — later identified as Dixon — fired multiple shots at Carrasco, killing him.

Dixon’s attorney, Scott Baly, did not respond to a request for comment from the Times on Friday.

Zanoni, Smittcamp and Alcaraz argued on Friday that Dixon should still have been incarcerated at the time of the shooting and said he was released too easily by California’s correctional system after being sentenced to five years in prison last summer.

“This is a wake-up call for everyone,” said Alcaraz. “I hope something good can come of this.”

Dixon was charged with multiple felonies after two separate arrests in 2020, but took down a plea deal last spring to receive the five-year sentence. But he was released under community supervision about five months later, court filings show. However, Dixon also received credit for spending nearly 20 months in the Fresno County Jail during the trial and spending a total of just over two years behind bars, according to Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Fresno law enforcement condemned two laws that have drawn much criticism over the years: Assembly Bill 109, a 2011 law designed to reduce the number of state prisons by requiring many convicted of crimes to to serve their sentences in county jails, and Proposition 57, a 2016 ballot initiative that expanded the options for probation and good behavior for people convicted of nonviolent crimes. Law enforcement officials named the laws that empower criminals.

Though both measures were developed under former Gov. Jerry Brown, Smittcamp took aim at Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, saying he is deflecting responsibility for “his failed policies” and shortcomings in the Department of Corrections, which oversees his office.

Newsom fired back at Smittcamp earlier this week, saying she should “blame herself” on this case because she oversaw the prosecution of Dixon.

Despite an early release from prison, Dixon was only convicted of two felonies – through a deal with prosecutors – despite facing nine felonies and one misdemeanor following his two arrests in 2020. A spokesman for the governor said that if Smittcamp had pursued the case “to the fullest extent of the law,” Dixon would have faced a more severe sentence.

Newsom’s office did not respond to further questions about the case on Friday.

“Mr. Dixon should have been in custody,” Smittcamp said Friday. “The assassination of Officer Carrasco is an example, … it’s the worst example.”

Alcaraz supported Smittcamp’s political crusade against prison reforms, but he also asked the local community to support Carrasco’s family during this difficult time and to honor the fallen officer for the man he was.

“Gonzalo Carrasco was a great person with a great smile,” said Alcaraz. “He was a young man who did everything right.”

Carrasco, who is from Reedley, had long worked towards becoming a police officer and fulfilled that dream in 2021, Alcaraz said. He had been in the Reedley Police Department’s Explorer program as a young adult, learned the trade and later spent two years as a reserve officer — or volunteer — with the Selma Police Department, Alacaraz said. While Carrasco waited for a full-time clerk position to open up at the Selma agency, Carrasco returned to farm work to support his family.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-04/ghost-gun-use-in-killing-of-fresno-county-officials-make-death-political ‘Ghost gun’ used in killing of Fresno County police officer

Alley Einstein

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