Derrick Broze | The Anti-Media
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SANTA ROSA, CA – On Monday July 7th the Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch decided not to pursue charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus in the death of thirteen year-old Andy Lopez.
On October 22, 2013 Deputy Gelhaus mistakenly shot and killed the teenager in Santa Rosa, California. Lopez was near his home and reportedly walking to a friends house while carrying a BB gun. Ravitch’s report says the officer mistook the toy gun for an “assault rifle” and was in fear for his life. The D.A.’s report also cited autopsy reports showing the thirteen year-old had smoked cannabis before the shooting. A medical expert reportedly concluded the plant may have altered the teens judgement.
Following the decision protests ensued Monday, Tuesday and on Saturday July 12th. The Santa Rosa Democrat reported around 200 protesters in downtown Santa Rosa Monday afternoon. On Tuesday protesters gathered at the county courthouse calling for the arrest of the Deputy Gelhaus. Saturday the 12th saw the largest recent protests when around 100 protesters marched through downtown Santa Rosa. Eventually the protesters made their way to the U.S. 101 highway, holding by banners and chanting while blocking traffic. California Highway Patrol officers arrived and closed off traffic. No arrests were reported.
Last November Lopez’s family filed a civil rights violation lawsuit in federal court. The killing drew tremendous outrage from the Latino community in Sonoma County. In the weeks following the murder hundreds of community members attended rallies, marches, and prayer events to celebrate the life of Andy Lopez and protest the actions of the Sonoma County Police Department.
Sonoma County officials formed a task force of community leaders to study options for civilian watchdogs groups. The county reportedly supports spending around $250,000 on body cameras for officers. The community, however, has felt the response to the murder was inadequate. Less than two months after the shooting, Deputy Gelhaus was working with the police force again, albeit reporting for desk duty. Many citizens were disturbed to find out that the 24 year police veteran was also a firearms instructor, Iraq War veteran and writer for gun magazines. The community fears that officers like Gelhaus are ticking time bombs that receive legal protection from police departments.