SANTA ROSA (KCBS)— Civil rights groups have joined a group of surviving family members of police-related deaths to call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Sonoma County for what they call “an epidemic of deadly force by police”.
According to the group’s statistics, there have been 61 fatal officer-involved shootings in Sonoma County since the year 2000 and are asking the DOJ’s civil rights division to review their claims of mounting police brutality in the county.
“We cannot let it get worse than it already is. We have to take some action to get us back to normalcy, to get us back to a community where people can respect, trust and rely on their police to take care of them,” said Attorney Izaak Schwaiger.
The Justice Department letter comes on behalf of a number of Sonoma County civil rights organizations, including one created after the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy, Andy Lopez, who was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy.
Schwaiger said nearly half of all the fatal shootings involve a mentally-ill person.
“Where’s the training on how to diffuse a situation with a mentally ill person? It doesn’t exist,” he said.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s office would not comment on the Justice Department’s filing. It has yet to release a report on whether, Erick Gelhaus, the sheriff’s deputy who killed Lopez, should be charged with a crime.