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SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Two months before Andy Lopez was fatally shot by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy, a Santa Rosa man said the same deputy pointed a gun at him twice during a traffic stop.
Lopez, 13, was shot by Deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22nd in southwest Santa Rosa after he carried what turned out to be a pellet gun.
Jeffrey Westbrook of Santa Rosa said he was carpooling to work on Highway 101 on August 21st around 8:30 a.m. when he was pulled over by Gelhaus for failing to use his blinker.
“I felt something not right with him,” Westbrook told KPIX 5.
Westbrook was pulled over in his black BMW on a narrow shoulder and steep hillside. When he offered Gelhaus to move and make more room for him, Westbrook said the traffic stop went sideways.
“As the car starts to move, he screams ‘Turn the car off.’ And as I’m still looking at him, he pulls his weapon out, and now he’s just point blank,” Westbrook said. He said the gun’s barrel was a foot from his head.
“I have never had a gun pointed at me,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook said Gelhaus told him to get out of the car and it happened again. “When he asked me if I had weapons, he actually went to the gun the second time,” he recalled.
Westbrook later learned a car matching his was part of a “be on the lookout” call.
In a series of emails with the deputy’s sergeant about filing a formal complaint, the Sonoma County sheriff’s office appeared to defend Gelhaus.
Westbrook said he was stunned to find out Gelhaus was the deputy who fatally shot Lopez. “I don’t know where I’m at, I just know that I’m feeling that maybe something could have been done,” he said.
One of the final emails he received from the department said Gelhaus will not be available to meet for the next several weeks “due to unforeseen circumstances.” The email was sent October 23rd, a day after Lopez was killed.
“I feel for the family,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook said he intends to file a formal complaint with the Sonoma County sheriff’s office against Gelhaus. The department did not respond to KPIX 5′s request for comment late Wednesday night.
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