Federal charges will not be filed against a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle in 2013.
The Department of Justice determined there was insufficient evidence to prove Deputy Erick Gelhaus willfully used excessive force that resulted in Andy Lopez’s death, U.S. attorney's spokesman Abraham Simmons confirmed Thursday. Because there wasn't enough evidence, federal authorities have closed their file against Gelhaus.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said in a statement the decision reaffirmed his support and confidence in Gelhaus.
The sheriff’s office announced Wednesday that the FBI conducted an independent review of Gelhaus’ actions and concluded that no civil rights were violated.
The decisions come nearly a year after Sonoma County Dist. Atty. Jill Ravitch announced that the deputy would not face charges. Ravitch said Gelhaus shot Andy in response to what "he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or others."
Andy was carrying a replica AK-47 on Oct. 22, 2013, when he was approached by Gelhaus in response to a call about a suspicious person.
Gelhaus saw the eighth-grader walking in the area with the replica rifle at his side and asked him to drop the weapon.
But prosecutors said Andy turned toward Gelhaus and his partner and began walking toward them.
Prosecutors said Gelhaus feared for his life and shot Andy seven times, striking him in the chest and abdomen.
Freitas said he and “members of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office are pleased that all the investigations into the matter have been completed.”
Andy’s parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Gelhaus and Sonoma County, calling the shooting unjustified and a “senseless and unwarranted act of police abuse.”
"Andy Lopez was a kind and charismatic boy who was loved by his family and friends," the suit said.
His death was a "profound and unimaginable loss" to his parents, the suit said.
A settlement hearing is set for Oct. 16 in Oakland.
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