A Northern California sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy carrying a pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle will not face charges.
Sonoma County Dist. Atty. Jill Ravitch said Monday that Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Andy Lopez as a response to what “he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or others.”
FOR THE RECORD
June 8, 3:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Andy Lopez was unarmed; he was carrying a pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle.
“It is incumbent upon us to move forward to address the many layers of concern uncovered by this tragedy, and work together to rebuild trust and support for all members of this community,” Ravitch said in a statement released after the decision was announced.
Lopez’s family later issued a statement, saying relatives were left feeling “as though Andy had been killed again today.”
“This cowardly political decision sends the tacit message that law enforcement officials who use excessive force in Sonoma County will not suffer meaningful consequences and, instead, will enjoy immunity from local prosecution,” the family wrote in the statement, published by NBC Bay Area.
The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood in October 2013. One other deputy was present. They were on patrol when they saw Lopez from the back walking with the pellet gun, a replica of an assault weapon.
Gelhaus told police he could not remember whether he identified himself as a sheriff’s deputy, but a witness said Gelhaus twice ordered Lopez to drop the gun. A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Lopez’s parents in November said Gelhaus did not identify himself and ordered Lopez to drop the gun only once.
Police said Gelhaus fired eight rounds.
A Facebook page titled “Justice for Andy Lopez” announced a demonstration against the district attorney’s decision Monday afternoon.