Protest erupts after deputy cleared in Northern California boy’s death

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Protesters on Tuesday denounced a Northern California prosecutor’s decision not to file criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a 13-year-old boy after mistaking the teen’s pellet gun for an assault rifle.

Dozens of demonstrators rallied Tuesday outside the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office, chanting “Justice for Andy Lopez” and wearing T-shirts with the eighth grader’s image.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Monday that her office cleared Deputy Erick Gelhaus of any criminal responsibility for shooting Lopez on Oct. 22 as the eighth-grader walked near his home in Santa Rosa.

Ravitch’s report cited autopsy results showing that Lopez had smoked marijuana about an hour before the shooting, and a medical expert concluded the drug likely impaired the teen’s judgment.

Gelhaus fired multiple rounds in response to what he believed was an imminent threat of death, Ravitch said at a news conference. She displayed photographs of the pellet gun found next to Lopez and a real assault rifle to highlight similarities in appearance.

Gelhaus “believed honestly and reasonably that he was faced with a do-or-die dilemma,” Ravitch said. “While it was absolutely a tragedy, it was not a criminal act.”

Lopez’s death have aggravated racial tensions in his mostly Latino neighborhood in the city of about 170,000 people north of San Francisco and led to large demonstrations to protest police brutality.

“Jill Ravitch essentially shirked her responsibility and provided all excuses possible for someone like Erick Gelhaus to get away with indiscriminate murder,” said Ramon Cairo, a Santa Rosa resident who attended Tuesday’s rally.

The parents of Andy Lopez said they felt they lost their son again and called Ravitch’s decision “impossible” to accept.

“This disheartening decision leaves the family feeling as though Andy had been killed again today,” Rodrigo Lopez and Sujay Cruz said in a statement released by their lawyer, Arnoldo Casillas.

Lopez’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco against the county and Gelhaus, which has been on hold pending the outcome of the district attorney’s investigation. Casillas said he will ask the court to restart the litigation.

More in Local News

It’s hard to find a parking spot at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Police investigate officer-involved shooting under U.S. 2 trestle

A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy was involved in the incident, sheriff’s Lt. Steve McDonald said.

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Most Read