The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus for the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in 2013.
The agencies reviewed the Oct. 22, 2013, shooting to determine if Lopez’s civil rights were violated. Gelhaus shot Lopez seven times while the teen was walking on Moorland Avenue southwest of Santa Rosa with a pellet rifle that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle.
The results were included in a news release by Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas who said he is pleased the investigation was completed:
“The FBI investigation, which was reviewed by the Department of Justice, concluded that there were no federal civil rights violations. … The FBI’s report supports the findings of the Sonoma County District Attorney and our own internal investigation.”
“The Sheriff reaffirms his support and confidence in Deputy Gelhaus and the work done by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office to provide public safety services to the citizens of Sonoma County.”
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, whose investigation into the shooting also concluded Gelhaus should not face criminal charges, also concurred with the results of the federal investigation:
“We will always carry the unfortunate death of a child in our community, and I continue to extend my condolences to his parents over the loss of their son. ”
Ravitch added in a written statement:
“That said, the decision of the Department of Justice, made independently, reaffirms this office’s commitment to seeking justice in a fair and impartial manner. I sought the federal review of the matter to ensure transparency in how we handle these manners, and am pleased the process has come to an end.”
Protests and marches followed the shooting well into 2014, and a 21-member task force was appointed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to study police and community relations and possibilities for civilian review of police shootings and law enforcement policies and procedures.
Gelhaus, 50, a 24-year sheriff’s veteran, was placed on paid leave then assigned to an office job before he returned to patrol duty in August 2014.
Lopez’s family has filed a civil rights violation and wrongful death complaint in civil court.