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

The suspect accused of killing a police officer this week in a small community in Fresno County fired fatal shots with a ‘ghost gun’, untraceable firearms that have become increasingly available and of concern, have officials said Friday.

Law enforcement officials found the gun — which they say was used to kill Selma police officer Gonzalo Carrasco Jr. — dumped not far from where the suspect, Nathaniel Dixon, was arrested on Tuesday, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said Friday. The sheriff said ghost guns are often created illegally by 3D printers or ordered online, and “cannot be traced or tracked.” The weapon was a .223 caliber assault rifle and did not have a serial number, Zanoni said.

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

Dixon appeared in court Friday for the first time since the murder, charged with first-degree murder, with additional enhancements for the murder of a police officer and a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Fresno County. Dist. Atti. Lisa A. Smittcamp. The 23-year-old is being held in Fresno County Jail without bond.

Although Zanoni pointed to the ghost gun allegedly used by Dixon at a Friday press conference, neither he nor other Fresno-area law enforcement officials called for changes to the laws on guns — instead, they continued to draw attention to prison reform laws that they say got Dixon out of jail early.

“This experiment in our criminal justice reform in California is not working,” Zanoni said. “In order to prevent something like this from happening again, … you have to do something political to get the message across.”

Even as the small town in Fresno County was still reeling from the loss of its first duty officer – shot dead in the predominantly Latino town of less than 25,000 on Tuesday – local law enforcement officials n did not hesitate to politicize the death of Carrasco.

“It’s politics,” said Smittcamp, a historically conservative county Republican who turned red in the last gubernatorial race. “He’s not going to die in vain if either of us has anything to do with it.”

Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz said Carrasco, an expectant father, was “essentially executed”.

Around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Carrasco was responding to concerns about a “suspicious male” in a neighborhood just west of Highway 99 in Selma, according to the Fresno Sheriff’s Office, which has taken over the investigation into the shooting. Carrasco attempted to approach the man, but the man – later identified as Dixon – fired several shots at Carrasco, killing him.

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

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

“It’s a wake-up call for everyone,” Alcaraz said. “I hope good comes out of it.”

Dixon was charged with multiple crimes after two separate arrests in 2020, but reached a plea deal last spring to receive the five-year sentence. But he was released about five months later on community supervision, according to court records. However, Dixon was also credited for the nearly 20 months he spent in Fresno County jail during court proceedings, serving a total of just over two years behind bars, according to Tony Botti, door -spoken from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Fresno law enforcement officials condemned two laws that have drawn widespread criticism over the years: Assembly Bill 109, a 2011 law aimed at reducing the state prison population by forcing many people convicted of crimes to serve their sentences in county jails, and Proposition 57, a 2016 ballot initiative that increased parole and good behavior opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent crimes. Law enforcement officials have called the laws empowering criminals.

Although both measures were crafted under former Gov. Jerry Brown, Smittcamp took aim at Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, saying he was shifting blame for “his failed policies” and shortcomings in the Department of Corrections, which his office supervises.

Newsom hit back at Smittcamp earlier this week, saying she should “blame herself”, in this case because she oversaw Dixon’s prosecution.

Although Dixon was released from prison early, he was only convicted of two felonies – thanks to an agreement with prosecutors – despite nine felony charges and one misdemeanor after his two arrests in 2020. A spokesperson for the Governor said that if Smittcamp had pursued the case “to the fullest extent of the law”, Dixon would have received a harsher sentence.

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

“Mr. Dixon should have been in custody,” Smittcamp said Friday. “The murder 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 wonderful human being with a big smile,” Alcaraz said. “He was a young man who did everything right.”

Originally from Reedley, Carrasco had long worked to become a police officer, achieving that dream in 2021, Alcaraz said. He had attended the Reedley Police Department’s Explorer Program as a young adult, learning the profession, and then spent two years as a reserve officer – or volunteer – with the Selma Police Department, Alacaraz said. While waiting for the opening of a full-time agent position at the Selma agency, Carrasco returned to agricultural work to support his family.

Los Angeles Times

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