SJ mayor, police chief point to systematic failures after learning of church stabbing suspect's criminal history

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Thursday, November 26, 2020
SJ officials reveal criminal history of church stabbing suspect
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Police Chief Eddie Garcia say the suspect in a fatal stabbing spree has a long criminal history, and should not have been out in the streets.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new details in the fatal stabbing that happened Sunday night at a church and homeless shelter in San Jose.

Police are now revealing that the suspect has a long criminal history and was deported three times.

RELATED: San Jose pastor 'stunned' after stabbing spree at church sanctuary kills 2, wounds 3

"The suspect is Fernando Jesus Lopez, he is homeless and has been a frequent guest at Grace and has taken shelter there in the past," San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said.


The 32-year-old suspect is accused of stabbing five people at Grace Baptist Church. Two were killed, and three remain in the hospital in serious but stable condition.

Chief Eddie Garcia and Mayor Sam Liccardo held a joint press conference on Wednesday to voice their extreme disappointment that Lopez was out on the streets in the first place.

"On three prior occasions, Lopez had been deported and ultimately returned to the United States," said Chief Garcia.

"I cannot understand why a defendant with multiple prior convictions for domestic violence was released, without bail, on a new domestic violence arrest this June over the strong objections of our District Attorney," said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

RELATED: San Jose city worker ID'd as one of survivors in deadly church stabbing

Lopez' criminal history also includes disturbing the peace, providing false information to an officer, resisting arrest and assault with a deadly weapon.

"In this case, I'm told that the county received an ICE detainer request but did not notify ICE of the defendant's release," said Mayor Liccardo. "Changes in our criminal justice system have not made our communities safer, this pendulum has swung too far."

Chief Garcia and Mayor Liccardo said they are speaking out to highlight systemic failures both in the criminal justice system and in providing unhoused individuals with safe and secure shelter.

"Multiple system failures led to this moment," said Mayor Liccardo.

Chief Garcia and Mayor Liccardo say they are both committed to moving the conservation forward.

RELATED: 2 dead after stabbing at San Jose church, police say

"I want to make this abundantly clear, the action of this suspect in no way reflects that of our diverse, beautiful immigrant community that we have in San Jose," said Chief Garcia.

"We certainly don't need to be making unwarranted generalizations based on this brutal attack," said Mayor Liccardo.

Garcia released other details of the case, including information about the officer who arrested Lopez.

"A responding officer with less than a year on the job spotted an individual in the area who matched the suspect's description, the suspect was on foot, without hesitation this officer apprehended the armed and dangerous suspect," he said.

Police believe Lopez was on drugs, but they are still awaiting toxicology results. Police don't believe that the crime was bias motivated.

Four of the victims were community members experiencing homelessness, one was a city employee.

Lopez remains in police custody.