(CNS) – A Coachella man testified Friday that his cousin shot him in the back of the head and then told him “you better run” once the gun appeared to jam, while a defense attorney questioned the victim’s reliability, saying he was an admitted heroin addict and convicted felon.
Gabriel Arevalos, 47, was the first witness called by the prosecution in the trial of Fernando Carlos Lopez, a reputed high-ranking gang member accused of shooting Arevalos at a home in the 44300 block of Cassia Drive in Indio on the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2017.
Lopez, 46, of Coachella could be sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison if convicted of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, along with several gun-related sentence-enhancing allegations.
A trial brief prepared by Deputy District Attorney Steven Sorensen alleges the shooting followed an argument about an outstanding debt over cigarettes. Another family member who lives in the house where the shooting occurred told police about the argument, but said he did not see the shooting, the brief says.
Arevalos — who admitted to injecting heroin five hours before being shot — testified that his cousin opened fire on him without warning from roughly 9 feet away, and made no mention of a beef over cigarettes.
According to Arevalos, Lopez and another cousin had snorted lines of methamphetamine prior to the shooting, which is when Arevalos — who said he did not partake — testified he left the garage and went to the front of the house.
“I went out the front door, and I grabbed the water hose and started watering, and I was only watering for a minute or two,” Arevalos testified. “The next thing I heard was a loud noise, and my ears starting ringing.”
After grasping his bleeding head, he said he turned around to see the defendant fumbling with the handgun, which appeared to be jammed. Arevalos said he then asked his cousin why he had shot him, which is when the defendant told him he “better run.”
Lopez’s attorney, John Patrick Dolan, questioned Arevalos over allegations that he attempted to secure favorable treatment by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in exchange for his testimony — an allegation Arevalos, and Sorensen, refuted.
Arevalos testified he served more than 14 years in state prison for a 2004 burglary with a firearm conviction. Court records indicate Arevalos is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of wilfully resisting arrest, destroying/concealing evidence and possessing drug paraphernalia.
According to a bail increase declaration prepared by Indio Police Department Detective Jesse Marin, Arevalos was targeted because he was a gang member considered in “bad standing” for choosing to “become classified as `PC’ (protective custody) — usually working with law enforcement.”
The prosecutor’s trial brief says Arevalos is a “drop-out,” or former member, of the gang, but makes no reference to allegations that Lopez targeted him because he was speaking with law enforcement.
Lopez, also known by the gang moniker “Fernie,” is a senior member of a street gang based in Coachella, Marin wrote.
According to prosecutors, after initially lying about his real name and who shot him, Arevalos told police in the hospital that it was his cousin who shot him.
After being taken into custody, Lopez allegedly confessed to the shooting but claimed it was an accident, according to court papers.
Lopez, who has previously documented felony convictions in Riverside County, including burglary and domestic violence, remains in custody at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on $2 million bail.