The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office concluded in a report
unveiled on Monday that deputy Erick Gelhaus "honestly and
reasonably" believed he faced an imminent of threat of death or
serious bodily harm to himself or others when he shot the youth,
Andy Lopez, last October.
The eighth-grader, clad in a hooded sweatshirt, was walking near his
home on the way to a friend's house in the wine-country town of
Santa Rosa when Gelhaus and his partner spotted the boy from their
patrol car carrying what appeared to be an AK-47.
The deputies stopped their car and ordered Andy to drop the gun, but
as the youth turned toward the officers, Gelhaus saw the rifle
barrel rise upward and he fired eight shots at the boy, according to
police accounts of an incident that unfolded in a matter of seconds.
The gun in question turned out to be an imitation AK-47 capable of
shooting pellets or BBs, investigators said. The orange tip of the
barrel designed to distinguish the replica from a real gun had been
But Gelhaus, a veteran officer and firearms instructor with nearly
20 years of experience in the U.S. military, believed at the time
that he faced a "do or die" situation and responded accordingly, the
prosecutor's report said.
"Here the implementation of lethal force was a reasonable response
under the circumstances," the 52-page concluded. "Therefore, the
actions of Deputy Gelhaus were lawful and no criminal charges will
be filed against him at this time."
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District Attorney Jill Ravitch said that before releasing the
findings of her investigation she contacted California Attorney
General Kamala Harris to determine whether her office intended to
conduct its own review of the case and that Harris has declined to
The FBI launched its own inquiry into the shooting last October and
Ravitch said her office's report would be forwarded to federal
investigators as their probe continues.
The boy's parents also have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit
against Gelhaus and Sonoma County.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Matt Driskill)
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