SANTA ROSA (KCBS / KPIX 5) — Protesters rallying against a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a 13-year-old boy clashed with police in riot gear in front of Santa Rosa City Hall Tuesday evening.
Two people were arrested after marched gathered to protest the deputy’s return to work this week.
Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot and killed Andy Lopez, who was carrying a replica gun, in late October. The deputy claimed that he thought the gun was an assault rifle.
The protest began with a group of around 100 protesters gathered in front of City Hall, some carrying white crosses that stood about two to three-feet high. The crosses were said to represent the victims of killings at the hands of Sonoma County law enforcement since the year 2000.
When the protesters attempted to enter the scheduled city council meeting, they were met by police and were told they couldn’t enter the building with their crosses because they did not conform to city code.
“They said we still couldn’t come in and started pushing the crowd. And as they started pushing these guys, I snuck around the side and the cop stomped on my foot as I was getting past him,” said Stacy Sycheff, a protester.
A shoving match with police ensued when protesters refused to relent. One demonstrator allegedly hit a police officer in the head with a wooden signpost and another allegedly hit an officer in the face. The two officers had minor injuries.
A recess was called at the City Council meeting and the protesters were allowed to enter. Police arrested a protester there on suspicion of hitting the officer with a signpost. He was identified as Ramon Cairo of Santa Rosa and was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, police said.
Demonstrators then began to march on Sonoma Avenue, stopping traffic, en route to the police department where they demanded the release of the man arrested.
Deputies made one arrest for suspicion of violation of probation and obstructing a police officer. That person was identified by the sheriff’s office as Jose Godoy, 24, of Santa Rosa. He was stopped leaving the scene in a vehicle and booked into jail, the sheriff’s office said.
Gelhaus, the sheriff’s deputy in question, is not on patrol and is instead working a desk job for the time being. This after receiving paid-administrative leave. Lopez was shot multiple times by Gelhaus after being stopped by police who thought his Airsoft rifle was an AK-47.
Protesters said they want the deputy arrested, as well as an outside investigation into the incident that claimed Lopez’s life.
“We can’t have the police investigating the police and the sheriff investigating the sheriff. We need an outside professional investigation team to get the root of the matter,” protester Norma Baumsteiger told KPIX 5.
Marchers eventually ended up at the Sonoma County sheriff’s office. The protest ended peacefully Tuesday night with no further incidents reported.
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