As son’s trial begins, Orange Cove mayor faces his own investigation
ORANGE COVE — Victor Lopez has been a controversial figure throughout his 25-year run as the mayor of Orange Cove, and now, less than a month from seeking re-election, Lopez is being investigated for making possible threats against the city’s chief of police.
Orange Cove police Chief Frank Steenport has alleged that Lopez threatened him, telling him to watch his back. Steenport reportedly recorded the conversation, which took place on Sept. 30, and sent it to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office has confirmed this week that it is investigating allegations of possible threats made by Lopez against the police chief. Threatening a peace officer is an offense, punishable by up to one year in jail. Once the sheriff’s office has concluded its investigation, a recommendation will be made to the district attorney’s office.
Meanwhile, the trial for Mayor Lopez’ son, Victor Lopez Jr., began Thursday. Lopez Jr., 44, is facing drug possession charges that could put him in jail for up to three years.
In November 2009, sheriff’s investigators arrested Lopez Jr. when they found six methadone pills during a raid at his home. During a preliminary hearing in March, sheriff’s Det. Jason Hollins testified that Lopez Jr. admitted he didn’t have a prescription for the pills, after first saying that he did.
“He changed his story,” Hollins said.
Lopez Jr. has been free on $5,000 bail since his arrest. The trial is expected to last three to four days.
Mayor Victor Lopez is running for re-election this November against challenger Gabriel Jimenez, an assistant plant-operations manager for a local sanitation district.