Arrest in Kauls murder case bittersweet for loved ones, Old Fig community

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News of Joseph Espinoza’s arrest has been bringing relief to everyone who knew Nick Kauls. The 22-year-old is suspected of shooting the late teen in the head on June 24 during an attempted robbery. But for some, there’s a little nagging feeling knowing there’s more people that need to be arrested.

The announcement came Friday at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in downtown Fresno. Sheriff Margaret Mims, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp detailed Espinoza’s arrest and charges.

During the announcement, Smittcamp took note of all the love Kauls had in his life.

“Nicholas Kauls was not just the son of Lisa Kauls. He was not just the son of San Joaquin Memorial. He was not just the son of people in Old Fig who loved him,” she said. “He is the son of everyone in this community, he is the son of Fresno.”

She also took time to speak on behalf of Lisa Kauls, she said Nick’s death has left her “unbelievably shaken.”

“[Lisa Kauls] understands the time, the energy and the resources that have gone into this moment, into this day,” Smittcamp said. “She is doing her best to try to find her new normal and to push through the process.”

Over the phone, many of Nick’s friends said they just want justice to be served in this crime. Valerie Lopes, Nick’s coach when he ran for the Valley Vipers Club, said she felt joy when she heard the news.

But she knows there’s other suspects to still be arrested.

“I would tell them to turn themselves in because that’s the least they can do for taking the life of a child who had such a future,” Lopes said.

From the beginning, the Old Fig Garden neighborhood has rallied behind Nick Kauls. First with a vigil, then with a very successful GoFundMe campaign. Not to mention helping raise the CrimeStoppers reward to $18,000.

At the announcement of Joseph Espinoza’s arrest, the man charged with Kauls’ murder, Fresno County Margaret Mims took a moment to acknowledge the neighborhood’s efforts.

“[They] asked what they can do to help, what else can be done,” said Mims.

Driving through the neighborhood Friday, support for Kauls is still very visible. From the memorial erected in his honor last Thursday, to the ribbons tied on mailboxes. Each ribbon still had the clear message: God bless Nick.

Dean Alexander, commissioner of the Fig Garden Police Protection District, said Kauls’ death devastated him and his neighbors. With an arrest made, he said it paints a message for criminals wanting to target Old Fig.

“Just stay out of our neighborhood,” he said.” Stay out of Fresno.”

Since the murder, many neighbors have been wanting to show their neighborhood doesn’t belong to criminals. The Fig Garden Homeowners Association has already started work to catch criminals on their streets faster.

“The Fig Garden neighbors are very proactive. We are in the process of constructing a map of all surveillance cameras,” said Prudence Zalewski. “We want to do everything we can. We want to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.”

Mims said they’ve been working with “promising” leads on the other suspects from Crimestoppers tips, but they could always use more information. You can leave an anonymous tip by calling 559-498-STOP.

There are several services planned for Kauls after the weekend, you can find details below:

  • Rosary Service: Monday, 6 p.m.
  • Funeral Service: Tuesday, 10 a.m.
  • Both will be held at St. Anthony of Padua, 5770 N. Maroa Ave.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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