gelhaus
Erick Gelhaus

Veteran Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who fired eight shots at 13-year-old Andy Lopez before his partner could leave the car, will not face criminal charges from the local district attorney:

A sheriff’s deputy won’t be charged for fatally shooting 13-year-old Andy Lopez as he walked with a BB pellet rifle that resembled an AK-47 in Santa Rosa last October, in a shooting that triggered a spate of protests and calls for criminal charges.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced the decision not to file criminal charges on Monday afternoon.

Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Lopez seven times on Moorland Avenue just outside of Santa Rosa on Oct. 22, 2013. The teen died at the scene.

Ravitch called the shooting of Lopez “absolutely tragic,” but said the actions of Sonoma County sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus were lawful and that he would not be charged.

The FBI investigation into the shooting continues, as does a civil suit filed by Lopez’s family. Both the FBI investigation and the civil suit will likely be affected by the revelation that Lopez was apparently stoned when he was shot.

A memorial to Andy Lopez
A memorial to Andy Lopez

The incident took just a matter of seconds, and Deputy Gelhaus maintains that Lopez was turning and raising the toy at him when he fired.  At least one shot hit Lopez as he was turning, and his family alleges that the trajectory of some of the bullets suggests that Lopez was shot while he was down.

The toy rifle was of a realistic size and shape, though the barrel was broken off cleanly in front of the gas block.
The airsoft rifle Andy Lopez was carrying was of a realistic size and shape, though the barrel was broken off cleanly in front of the gas block.

One would assume that Lopez (or anyone else) would turn towards a squad car the “blipped” the siren, and so the story really seems to revolve around whether or not Deputy Gelhaus opened fire too quickly and was justified in continuing to shoot eight shots.

The local district attorney seems to think that he acted within reason. Many local activists, decrying the militarization of police, feel that he did not.