Mother of teen gunned down in Old Fig Garden: ‘Prop 47 killed my son’

CBS47 Investigates

The mother of a teenage boy gunned down in Old Fig Garden last summer is breaking her silence. Lisa Kauls now strives to keep her son’s memory alive. It’s been nearly seven months since her son Nick Kauls was murdered. But you can only imagine the pain his mother has endured each and every day since his death. For the first time, she’s speaking out, hoping justice for her son comes soon.

The very moment she laid eyes on him — life itself changed when Nicholas Steven Kauls was born.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. I was even happier when I found out I was having a boy,” said Lisa.

A single mom at 33 — Lisa Kauls could never leave her son’s side. 17 years later, on the night of June 24, 2018. Lisa remembers the curfew she set for Nick when he went to Old Fig Garden to hang with friends.

“11:30 came. I didn’t get a text from him,” said Lisa.

Minutes later — tragedy rocked Lisa’s world.

“I’ve been told the time of the shooting is the same time I sent my text message for the second time asking him why haven’t you called me back,” said Lisa.

Nick had been shot near Rialto and Van Ness Avenues and taken to CRMC. Lisa rushed over, waiting in a panic to see her son.

“I sat in that parking lot for five hours, not knowing what’s going on with my son. I didn’t see my son until they moved him to ICU,” said Lisa.

Investigators say Joseph Espinoza and his accomplices pulled up in an SUV, trying to rob Nick and his friend as they stood outside before Espinoza allegedly fired several shots.

Here’s the full 41-minute interview with Lisa Kauls:

“He was shot in the back of the head running away.”

To this day, Lisa can’t shake the image of her son.

“As he was laying there, he had this tear coming down the side of his face and I tell myself that was his way of telling me ‘mom I’m sorry I’m not gonna make this,'” said Lisa.

Nick was on life support for the next four days. His mother clenching his hand until finally — she had to let go.

“I told him it’s okay, he can go. ‘I understand honey that it’s not your fault. Mom wanted to be here for you, wanted you to know I was there as quick as I could be there,'” said Lisa.

Just hours before that deadly shooting, Fresno Police say officers found Espinoza and his friend Jose Figueroa in a room at Motel 6 on north Blackstone. They arrested Figueroa on gun charges and found methamphetamine on Espinoza.

“Instead of being booked into jail for a felony, under Proposition 47, he was issued a misdemeanor citation for that charge,” said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer after Espinoza was arrested on July 6, 2018.

“Prop 47 did kill my son,” said Lisa.

When authorities arrested Espinoza for murder, Lisa’s sentiment was echoed.

“He is the son of Fresno and he is everybody and anybody’s child,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp after Espinoza’s arrest.

“They weren’t doing anything but skateboarding and hanging out at his friend’s house. If it can happen to my son, it can happen to anybody,” said Lisa.

Nick would have turned 18 on February 4. His mother says precious milestones like graduation have been ripped away.

“His suit and everything was hanging on my closet and I had to come home from the hospital after leaving my son there to see that. Graduation will be a hard day for me to have to accept,” said Lisa.

She says each day for her is a different battle but she will never stop fighting for the legacy of Nick Kauls.

“I want people to remember that my son loved life. And this stranger who was let go because of Prop 47, took my son’s life. For what? What did this guy get for shooting my son? What did he benefit from this? Nobody benefited. Nobody,” said Lisa.

Joseph Espinoza is in Fresno County Jail charged with several felonies including murder, attempted murder and robbery. His next court date is February 13. Lisa Kauls did start a scholarship fund at San Joaquin Memorial High School in the name of her son, raising more than $12,000 to help contribute to the tuition of one freshman each school year.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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