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Remembering Gio Lopez: The forgotten seventh member of Los Siete
Gio Lopez, the seventh member of Los Siete, in prison with his friends. Courtesy: Linda Carlos

When looking back on the history and legacy of Los Siete De La Raza, the seven youth falsely accused of killing an SFPD officer, the focus is usually on the six who stood trial and their fight for justice. However, the uncaptured seventh, Gio Lopez, would go on to have his own story to tell as he evaded authorities and found himself bouncing from country to country.

It was on May 1, 1969, that seven young Latinos were stopped by two plainclothes SFPD officers. A struggle followed and resulted in one of the officers’ guns going off, killing him. The seven fled the scene; six of them were found and arrested three days later. Lopez, feeling alone and scared after the arrests of his friends, looked for any help he could get. This brought him to Linda Carlos’ home. Carlos was Lopez’s girlfriend at the time, and Lopez spent a short time at her house before being moved to the home of one of Carlos’ close relatives.   

Weeks after the incident, and after discussions with Carlos and several Los Siete supporters, Lopez reluctantly agreed that it would be best if he moved to Mexico, where he would be safe.

“Gio really didn’t want to go,” Carlos told El Tecolote. “He wanted to stay with me, but I told him, ‘You can’t stay with me. You’re going to get caught.’”

Lopez drove down and set up camp with several supporters atop a hill in Baja California, Mexico, just several weeks after the initial incident. These supporters also served as a channel of communication for Lopez and Carlos. They would relay messages between the two and even took Carlos to visit Lopez during his short time there.

Lopez had planned to sneak back into the United States and hijack a plane out of New Orleans to get to Cuba, where he would look for asulym. Being born in New Orleans, Lopez planned to use his old connections to get ahold of a plane to take him to Cuba, according to Carlos.

He was able to stay in Cuba for three years before the Cuban government forced him to leave. Luckily for him, he was given a choice of where he wanted to go. He decided it’d be best for him if he was sent to El Salvador, where he had family. He would stay there for 20 years, while Carlos faced her own challenges.

Gio Lopez’s partner, Linda Carlos, with their son Armando at the Waterfront Restaurant, circa 1980s. Courtesy: Linda Carlos

While Lopez was away, Carlos was back home in San Francisco, preparing to welcome their son.

Carlos had revealed to Lopez that she was pregnant while they were in Mexico. He begged her to come with him, but she refused. Because of her pregnancy, she decided to stay home with her family in the Mission.

“He was heartbroken,” Carlos recalled. “Gio really wanted me and the baby to come with him, but I just couldn’t do that.”

Carlos welcomed their first and only son, Armando, in March 1970. Before her pregnancy, she had not only advocated for Lopez’s cause, but for her community as a whole. She did what she could for the Los Siete organization and the six who stood trial. However once her son was born, she was forced to put her activism aside and focus being a provider.

“Because I was a single parent, I couldn’t do it anymore,” Carlos said. “I couldn’t be an advocate anymore, I had to be a mother.”

Raising their son on her own was tough on Carlos. She found work as an administrative assistant to support herself and Armando. With the help of her family, as well as Lopez’s family, she was able to balance work and taking care of her child.

Gio Lopez, the seventh member of Los Siete, in prison. Courtesy: Linda Carlos

Eventually, Lopez did attempt to come back in August 1992, but he was still wanted by the U.S. government, resulting in him being detained in Texas at the border. He was eventually convicted for the hijacking of the plane he used to get to Cuba. Although he was incarcerated, Lopez used the opportunity to build the relationship with his son.

As his release date moved closer, excitement grew. After decades of being away from family and friends, Lopez’s freedom was within reach. But just days before his release date in October 2002, Lopez died after falling into a coma following complications with his dialysis treatments.

“He looked healthy. He looked really good,” Carlos recalled. “And all of a sudden, it gets closer to his release date and we find out that he’s really sick. It just didn’t make sense.”

Reminiscing on the past, Carlos said she is proud of the work done by the Los Siete organization. As a lifelong resident of San Francisco, she said she is in awe of the impact the organization had and how that impact is still seen today.

“We were like a family and it was like a revolution had happened because of Los Siete,” she said. “And that, I can say, I’m very proud of. It was something good that came out of something bad.”

Story by: Hector Aguilar