Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Monday that her office will not file criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez last October.
Ravitch held a news conference in Santa Rosa Monday afternoon, calling 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.
On Oct. 22, 2013, the teen was walking with a BB pellet rifle on Moorland Avenue just outside of Santa Rosa when Gelhaus and another deputy encountered him.
Gelhaus told investigators he ordered Lopez to drop the rifle, but the barrel of the gun rose as the teen turned toward the deputies’ patrol car.
Gelhaus, who said he feared for his life, fired eight shots at Lopez, who was struck by seven bullets and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The district attorney’s office released a 52-page report Monday on what Ravitch called an “exhaustive” investigation into the details of the shooting.
About a dozen protesters were gathered outside the building where Ravitch disclosed the results of her review. Human rights attorney Jonathan Melrod said:
“[Lopez] was shot because he was a kid carrying a toy gun where kids play… The militarization of the police is evolving into ‘us versus them’… They’re policing us as if they were still in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Community organizer Nicole Guerra, whose son was Lopez’s friend, said she considers it ridiculous that:
“…police can use the excuse they were in fear of their lives… Kids are in fear because they know cops can get away with it… He should have known that was a toy.”
She said Ravitch’s decision not to charge Gelhaus “is like killing him again.” Guerra added:
“He needs to be held accountable.”
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas released a statement about Ravitch’s decision:
“My heart goes out to the friends of Andy Lopez, the involved deputies, and the entire Sonoma County community during this difficult time… We as a community need to come together to find every possible way to minimize the potential of a tragic incident like this from happening again.”
— James Lanaras, Bay City News