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SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — There will no charges pressed against a Sonoma County deputy in the fatal shooting last October of a teenage boy who was carrying a BB pellet rifle, according to the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch held a news conference in Santa Rosa Monday afternoon to announce the decision that Deputy Erik Gelhaus would not face any criminal charges in the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa on October 22nd.
Ravitch’s office release a 52-page report Monday that concluded Gelhaus fired on Lopez “in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death to himself or others.”
Ravitch called the shooting of Lopez “absolutely tragic” but said that Gelhaus’ actions were lawful.
Lopez was walking on Mooreland Avenue in Santa Rosa on October 22nd, 2013 carrying the replica rifle when he was approached by Gelhaus.
Gelhaus told investigators he ordered Lopez to drop the rifle, but the barrel of the gun rose as the teen turned toward the deputies’ patrol car. Gelhaus, who said he feared for his life, fired eight shots at Lopez, who was struck by seven bullets and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry said their investigation found that the deputies thought the weapon was a real assault rifle and their feared for their lives.
“He was holding the weapon in his left hand. He began to turn toward his right in the direction of the deputy and in doing so, he moved toward the direction of the deputy and the deputy’s mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot,” Henry said.
One of Lopez’s friends, Marvin Tom, told KCBS he was shocked the officers couldn’t tell the gun was a toy.
The teenager’s death has spurred numerous protests and outcries from the public.
About a dozen protesters were gathered outside the building where Ravitch disclosed the results of her review.
Human rights attorney Jonathan Melrod said Lopez “was shot because he was a kid carrying a toy gun where kids play.”
“The militarization of the police is evolving into ‘us versus them,’” Melrod said.
“They’re policing us as if they were still in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
Community organizer Nicole Guerra, whose son was Lopez’s friend, said it is ridiculous that “police can use the excuse they were in fear of their lives.”
“Kids are in fear because they know cops can get away with it,” Guerra said.
“He should have known that was a toy,” Guerra said.
She said Ravitch’s decision not to charge Gelhaus “is like killing him again.”
“He needs to be held accountable,” Guerra said.
Dozens gather in Sonoma County to protest D.A.’s decision:
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas released a statement about Ravitch’s decision, saying his “heart goes out to the friends of Andy Lopez, the involved deputies, and the entire Sonoma County community during this difficult time.”
“We as a community need to come together to find every possible way to minimize the potential of a tragic incident like this from happening again,” Freitas said.
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