Sheriff Margaret Mims would like to announce that sheriff’s detectives have made an arrest for the June 24th shooting in the Old Fig Garden Neighborhood that resulted in the death of 17 year old Nicholas Kauls.

The suspect is 22 year old Joseph Antonio Espinoza of Fresno.  Espinoza was in court Friday morning for a hearing on other charges when new charges of murder, attempted murder and attempted robbery were placed on his record.  He is currently in custody in the Fresno County Jail with a bail amount of $4.3 million.

Joseph Antonio Espinoza

To recap, it was around 11:45 pm on Sunday, June 24th, dispatchers at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 phone call stating gunshots had been fired outside a home on the 4700 block of N. Sunset Drive, near Van Ness and Rialto in Fresno’s Old Fig Garden neighborhood.  Deputies arrived and found a 17 year old boy, later identified as Nicholas Kauls, suffering from a gunshot wound.  Medics arrived and transported Nicholas to Community Regional Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition.

As homicide detectives began working the case, they learned that the shooter arrived in a light colored mid-size SUV.  A man got out of the SUV, approached Nicholas and his friend as they were in the driveway and demanded they hand over all of their belongings.  The boys refused and ran away.  The robbery suspect then fired shots at them, striking Nicholas.  

While at the scene, sheriff’s detectives became aware that Fresno Police detectives were investigating other attempted robberies and shootings, which occurred around the same time frame in the city of Fresno.  One in the area of Ashlan and West and the other near First and Gettysburg.  Detectives began working together to see if all three calls may be related.

Sheriff and police detectives contacted businesses and homeowners with surveillance cameras.  Members of the public also contacted us to offer video recordings they had.  Detectives reviewed videos of different streets and were able to identify a newer model Toyota Highlander as the vehicle possibly connected to the robbery attempts and shootings.

On June 26th, detectives with Fresno H.E.A.T., the Help Eliminate Auto Theft Task Force, found a 2018 Toyota Highlander that had recently been reported stolen.  As they approached the driver of the vehicle at a fast food restaurant near Shaw and Cedar, the driver used the SUV to ram a detective’s vehicle, as well as a citizen’s vehicle.  The suspect, later identified as Joseph Espinoza, ran from the vehicle and tried to hide in a dumpster at a nearby apartment complex.  A Fresno Police K-9 found and bit Espinoza, allowing officers to take him into custody.  Espinoza was booked into the Fresno County Jail on charges of vehicle theft and assault with a deadly weapon.

On June 28th, sheriff’s detectives and members of its S.W.A.T. team served a search warrant at a home on the 3500 block of E. Santa Ana Ave. in Fresno.  This is a home where Espinoza was known to stay.  Detectives and members of our Crime Scene Unit collected evidence from the house.

Following several witness interviews and the analysis of evidence, homicide detectives determined Espinoza was responsible for the shooting death of Nicholas Kauls.

Even though we have the shooter in custody, we know other people were directly involved with Espinoza the night of the homicide and robbery attempts.  We would like the public’s help to identify them so they can face the charges they deserve.

A Valley Crime Stoppers cash reward of $18,000 still exists.  In order to be eligible for the reward, you must submit your tip to Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-7867 or online at  You will remain anonymous and your tip must lead to an arrest to collect the cash.  Tips directly to law enforcement do not qualify you for the reward.

Nicholas Kauls


Contact Information

Tony Botti
Public Information Officer
(559) 600-8137
(559) 977-0379
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