SANTA ROSA (KCBS)—The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has identified the deputy who fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez last Tuesday as 48-year-old Erick Gelhaus.
Gelhaus is a 24-year veteran of the sheriff’s office who was assigned to the day shift patrol at the time of the shooting. He is also a field training officer and firearms instructor in policy and procedure, safety and the use of force, Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas said.
Gelhaus and another deputy were on patrol at about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday when they saw Lopez near Moorland and West Robles avenues, southwest of Santa Rosa.
Lopez was carrying an airsoft BB gun that looked like an authentic AK-47 assault rifle, as he walked down Moorland Avenue, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department, one of the agencies investigating the incident.
The deputies took cover behind the open doors of their patrol car and ordered Lopez to drop the rifle, Santa Rosa police said.
As Lopez turned around, the deputies said they saw the barrel of the rifle rise up, and Gelhaus opened fire, according to Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry.
He fired eight shots at Lopez within 10 seconds, Henry said. Seven of the shots hit Lopez, who died at the scene.
A replica handgun made of plastic was found in his waistband, Henry said.
The deputy who did not fire his weapon is not being identified because he is a witness to the shooting. He has 11 years’ experience with another Bay Area law enforcement agency, and had recently joined the sheriff’s office and was training with Gelhaus at the time, Duenas said.
Duenas said the sheriff’s office has received general and direct threats of “an eye-for-an-eye” nature since the shooting. Both deputies are on paid administrative leave.
Petaluma police and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office are also investigating the shooting, and the FBI is conducting a separate, independent investigation.
In the past, Gelhaus has contributed to magazines and online forums dealing with guns and police use of force.
The Sheriff’s office had initially refused to release Gelhaus’ name, citing threats to his safety, but a change of mind came when it became apparent his name was starting to circulate publicly.
Meanwhile, some members of Sonoma County’s Latino community have said that last week’s shooting has left them fearful of law enforcement and that those fears are only adding to the already negative perceptions some have of the police.
“My little kid’s in school, he said, ‘Dad, I can’t go to school because I’m scared.’ I talked to my son, I said, ‘Hey, don’t worry,” said Salvatore Cruz, a well-known Sonoma County musician.
Hundreds of community members came out on Sunday for Lopez’ wake.
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