Photo: Joseph Antonio Espinoza
FPD arrested the suspected shooter and killer of 17-year old Nicholas Kauls. The night of June 24th, Nicholas stood with a friend outside. They were in the driveway of an Old Fig Garden home on the 4700 block of North Sunset Drive.
In the first place, a light colored SUV drove up to the house. Then a man exited the vehicle and approached the boys with demands to hand over their possessions.
When the boys refused and attempted to run away, the suspect shot at them, wounding Nicholas in the head. Nicholas’ condition remained critical until he passed away four days later at Community Regional Medical Center. It appears Nicholas was a random target.
The night of the shooting, two other robberies and shootings occurred within a 30 minute period. One incident took place near Ashland and West and the other near First and Gettysburg.
Detectives collected surveillance video from several business and homeowners. Members of the public also contacted detectives to offer video footage they had captured. One vehicle particular vehicle stood out: a newer version of a Toyota Highlander.
Two days after the shooting, Fresno’s Help Eliminate Auto Theft Task Force (H.E.A.T.) spotted a 2018 Toyota Highlander recently reported stolen at a fast food restaurant on Shaw and Cedar.
The driver, 22-year old Joseph Antonio Espinoza, saw detectives closing in on him and used the SUV to crash into two cars in an attempt to get away.
In fact, Espinoza did not get far in the car. He then ran away and took shelter behind a dumpster at a nearby apartment complex. Espinoza’s hiding skills were no match for a Fresno Police K9’s finding skills.
Once found, the K9 bit Espinoza, allowing his fellow human officers to arrest him. At that point authorities booked Espinoza into jail and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and vehicle theft. The investigation into the robberies and shootings continued.
June 28th, the same day Nicholas passed away, investigators searched a home on East Santa Ana Avenue. They did this in light of the fact that this is where Espinoza was known to stay. Investigators collected and analyzed evidence and interviewed several eye witnesses. They identified Espinoza as the person responsible for shooting and killing 17-year old Nicholas Kauls.
As a result, July 7th found Espinoza in court in regards to his previous charges. It was at that time he had murder, attempted murder, and attempted robbery charges added. His bail is $4.3 million.
Above all, the community rallied together to find the person responsible for Nicholas’s death. Several residents of Old Fig Garden and local business owners contributed to the Crime Stoppers cash reward which grew to $18,000 for information leading to an arrest.
The reward remains available for anyone who submits a tip leading to more arrests as detectives know other people were involved. Please note: tips must be communicated anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867 or online at valleycrimestoppers.org to be eligible for the award.
Photos from Fresno County Sheriff’s Office