A man was sentenced to 180 days in county jail Thursday for illegally possessing a gun he used to shoot and kill a man who was attacking him with a knife.

Authorities say that on July 25, Eloy Lobato Jr. shot and killed Christopher Brito following an altercation between the two at a Valero gas station in the 6900 block of Atlantic Avenue. It remains unclear what sparked the altercation.

Lobato fled the scene that day, but was later taken into custody on suspicion of murder and prohibited possession of a firearm by a felon.

During interviews with detectives, Lobato allegedly admitted to shooting Brito in self-defense, according to authorities.

Detectives eventually turned the case over to prosecutors, who declined to file murder or manslaughter charges against Lobato, saying he could make a “reasonable case for self defense under the circumstances,” and that the investigating officers were in agreement.

A Valero gas station.
A gas station at 6944 Atlantic Ave. where police say a man was shot to death on July 25, 2023. Photo by Fernando Haro.

Instead, the DA’s office opted to pursue only a weapon charge, which stemmed from police finding a firearm during his arrest.

On Aug. 10, Lobato pleaded no contest to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, but concerns over the nature of the charge arose during a sentencing last month, prompting Long Beach Superior Court Judge Tomson T. Ong to continue the hearing to this month.

On Thursday, Ong, who said he reviewed the police report and video footage of the shooting, confirmed he agreed with the charge, calling Lobato’s actions an “absolute self-defense.”

“And rightfully so,” Ong added.

The security footage from that night appears to show Brito approaching Lobato and stabbing him with a knife before Lobato shot him, Ong said.

“If he didn’t have a knife, then it would’ve been a homicide,” Ong said.

Russell Nieto, who was also taken into custody on suspicion of accessory to murder in connection with Brito’s death, and was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, also pleaded no contest. He was sent to be sentenced later this afternoon.