Shooting of Andy Lopez
Undated family photo of Andy Lopez
|Date||October 22, 2013|
|Time||c. 3:14 p.m. (PST)|
|Location||Moorland Avenue and West Robles Avenue, Santa Rosa, California, United States|
|Participants||Erick Gelhaus (shooter)
Andy Lopez (death)
|Litigation||Lawsuit seeking unspecified damages against Sonoma County and Gelhaus pending|
The fatal shooting of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus took place on October 22, 2013, in Santa Rosa, California. 13-year-old Lopez was walking through a vacant lot and carrying an airsoft gun that was designed to resemble an AK-47 assault rifle. Gelhaus opened fire on Lopez, presumably mistaking the airsoft gun for a real firearm. The shooting prompted many protests in Santa Rosa, and throughout California.
On November 4, 2013, the Lopez family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit at the U.S. District Court.
On July 7, 2014, District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced no charges would be filed against Gelhaus. On July 1, 2015, the FBI announced no criminal charges would be filed against Gelhaus, due to lack of evidence to prove that he violated Lopez's civil rights.
Andy Lopez (June 2, 2000 – October 22, 2013) was a 13-year-old boy who attended Lewis Opportunity School in Santa Rosa. He was raised in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood in southwest Santa Rosa. He transferred to Lewis Opportunity School from Cook Middle School one week prior to his death.
Erick Gelhaus is a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy, and has worked with the agency for 24 years. He is also an Iraq War veteran. Gelhaus is a firearms instructor and is a contributing writer to gun publications. He was an instructor for ten years at Gunsite Academy, an Arizona-based company that teaches gun-handling, marksmanship, and law enforcement to "elite military personnel, law enforcement officers and free citizens of the U.S." He specialized in teaching pistol, carbine, shotgun and rifle lessons. He accidentally shot himself in the leg in 1995 while on duty with the sheriff's office, reportedly while holstering a gun during an attempt at searching a teenager for weapons. In his 24 years in law enforcement, he had never shot a suspect until the shooting of Lopez.
According to Santa Rosa Police Lieutenant Paul Henry, two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies (Gelhaus and Michael Schemmel; Schemmel was driving the patrol car) were patrolling the Moorland Avenue neighborhood when they spotted Andy Lopez approximately 25 yards (23 m) ahead carrying an airsoft replica of an AK-47 assault rifle while he was walking on Moorland, just past the corner of West Robles Avenue. The rifle appeared to be a real weapon, since it did not have the orange tip that is a legal requirement for all toy guns for import. However, airsoft and pellet rifles are exempted from the marking requirements. As the sheriff's deputies approached the child from behind, Gelhaus radioed an observation of "Code 20, two units" at 3:13:58 p.m. Schemmel activated the light bar and briefly sounded the siren as he parked the patrol vehicle, and Gelhaus exited the passenger's side, calling out to demand that Lopez drop the weapon. Lopez turned to his right, towards the deputies and the barrel allegedly began to ascend.
At 3:14 p.m., Gelhaus fired eight shots at Lopez from his department-issued 9mm handgun. The deputies broadcast "shots fired" to dispatch at 3:14:17 p.m., indicating the total time from initial contact to the shooting was seventeen seconds. Seven bullets hit Andy within six seconds. Two of the shots delivered fatal wounds, with one round hitting Lopez on his side while he was turning to face the police, at least four entering from the rear, according to an autopsy. The deputies then immediately handcuffed Lopez. When Lopez was searched after the shooting, he was also found to have a clear plastic pistol in his waistband. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Lopez was found to be under the influence of marijuana after an autopsy.
On October 26, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started to conduct an independent investigation in Lopez's death. Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas announced in a statement on October 25 that he will cooperate fully with federal investigators. It is the first time the FBI has investigated an officer-involved shooting in Sonoma County since the 1997 shooting death of Kuanchung Kao in Rohnert Park.
Investigators said Gelhaus feared for his safety after Lopez turned around and allegedly raised the pellet gun in his direction (a replica of an AK-47 that was an air-soft gun that fired plastic pellets). Gelhaus told investigators that he could not remember if he verbally identified himself as a deputy sheriff, although he was in a deputy sheriff's uniform and marked sheriff's patrol car before firing at Lopez; however, Lopez would not have seen the uniform or patrol car since the officers approached him from behind.
Gelhaus was cleared to return to duty on December 9, 2013, but was able to work at his desk and not on patrol. On July 7, 2014, District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced no charges would be filed against Gelhaus. In August 2014, Gelhaus was allowed to return to patrolling the streets.
On July 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would not file criminal charges of violating one's civil rights against Gelhaus. According to a Justice Department spokesman, the decision to not file charges against Gelhaus was due to insufficient evidence to prove that he willfully used excessive force that resulted in Lopez's death. A group of federal prosecutors and FBI agents reviewed the case and determine there was a lack of evidence to prove Gelhaus violated Andy Lopez's civil rights.
Arnoldo Casillas, the lawyer representing Lopez's family, said that the shooting was unconstitutional because it violated the Fourth Amendment's limits on police authority. On November 4, the Lopez family filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claiming that Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Lopez “without reasonable cause.”
The civil action trial was initially scheduled to start in April 2016. In February 2016, the trial was delayed, possibly up to one year, due to the county’s latest legal action. Sonoma County is challenging a January ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Jean Hamilton that allowed the case brought by the parents of Andy Lopez to go forward. Hamilton dismissed three of the five claims that the 27-year veteran violated Lopez’s civil rights but she said would leave it to a jury to decide whether Gelhaus acted unreasonably. If appellate justices reverse Hamilton’s ruling, the case would be stripped of its last federal claim and reduced down to state court to try the remaining negligence allegation. The attorney who would have defended Sonoma County in the federal lawsuit filed by Lopez's parents, Steven Mitchell, committed suicide two weeks after the decision to delay the case was made.
A series of protests were organized and held following Lopez's death. The protests were mainly organized by immigrant, religious and community groups and activists. Many protesters have stated that Lopez's shooting was a case of police brutality, and that Lopez, who was Latino, was a victim of racial profiling by the deputies. On October 25, 2013, more than 100 people, consisting mostly of middle school and high school students, protested at the Santa Rosa City Hall. On October 29, over 1,000 people attended a protest in downtown Santa Rosa, in the form of a mass march. The march initiated in the Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa, and ended at the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. Lawyer John Burris, who represented the family of police shooting victim Oscar Grant, gave a speech at the rally. Attendees traveled from all over the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the event. Many protesters held picket signs demanding justice. Up to 200 people attended a march in Santa Rosa on November 5, 2013, including activist Cindy Sheehan. They also demanded that District Attorney Jill Ravitch issue an arrest warrant for Gelhaus or put together a grand jury, but she declined both, stating that the investigation would take time.
On November 26, 2013, several people were detained during protests in Santa Rosa. A dozen demonstrators were cited for blocking traffic, and one demonstrator was arrested and booked for resisting arrest. There were 80 people attending that protest, consisting of local middle and high-school students, and several members of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a Bay Area-based civil rights group.
On December 3, 2013, protesters targeted Ravitch at her re-election fundraiser.
On December 9, 2013, Gelhaus was cleared to return to duty, which resulted in additional protests.
A 31-year-old man was arrested for battery on a police officer for allegedly punching a police officer and hitting another officer with a picket sign during a protest at the Santa Rosa City Hall on December 10, 2013. Charges were dropped against him in May 2014. A second person was arrested for obstructing a police officer and violating probation. Multiple protesters vandalized the front door of the Sonoma County Jail, breaking its glass.
On February 17, 2014, protesters for Andy Lopez gathered at the Santa Rosa Plaza food court to eat lunch while wearing shirts displaying "RIP Andy Lopez." Several mall security guards came up to them and asked them to remove their T-shirts or leave the mall. The attorney for Simon Malls, owner of Santa Rosa Plaza, apologized in a letter issued to relatives of Andy Lopez, stating that they were disappointed that the security guards did not comply with the mall's policies and procedures. The head of security for Santa Rosa Plaza was fired one month later in connection with the incident.
On July 12, 2014, over 100 protesters held a rally at the Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, in response to their disapproval with prosecutors' decision to not file charges against Erick Gelhaus. A small group of protesters marched up onto northbound Highway 101, blocking traffic.
A memorial park was created for Lopez in December 2013, located near the site of his death.
In March 2016, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved of an additional $1.2 million of fund money for the park and a name for it. The park will be named "Andy's Unity Park," and will encompass 4.22 acres. The park's estimated cost is at $4 million, with $3 million for the construction.
- List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States, October 2013
- Police misconduct
- Shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent 2014 Ferguson unrest
- Shooting of Tamir Rice
- Shooting of Akai Gurley
- Shooting of John Crawford III
- Shooting of Ezell Ford
- Death of William Corey Jackson
- Shooting of Kuanchung Kao
- Death of Eric Garner
- Entertech shooting deaths
- Emmett Till
- "Protest Over Andy Lopez Killing 10.29.13". Press Democrat. October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- Johnson, Julie (October 27, 2013). "Mourners wearing white honor Andy Lopez at visitation service". Press Democrat. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Joseph, Channing (October 28, 2013). "Deputy who shot Calif. teen is a gun instructor". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2013-11-01. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
- Alexander, Kurtis (October 29, 2013). "Big rally in Santa Rosa over toy gun killing". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Murdock, Sebastian (October 29, 2013). "Erick Gelhaus Identified As Cop Who Killed Teenager Andy Lopez". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Law enforcement employee-involved fatal incident report (PDF) (Report). Sonoma County District Attorney's Office. 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
- Wilkey, Robin (October 23, 2013). "Police Shoot And Kill Andy Lopez, 13-Year-Old Boy Carrying Pellet Gun". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- "15 C.F.R. Part 272—Marking of Toy, Look-Alike and Imitation Firearms". Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
§272.3 Approved markings.
The following markings are approved by the Secretary of Commerce:
A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the federal standard color number, solid plug permanently affixed to the muzzle end of the barrel as an integral part of the entire device and recessed no more than 6 millimeters from the muzzle end of the barrel.
A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the Federal Standard color number, marking permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least 6 millimeters.
Construction of the device entirely of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device's complete contents.
Coloration of the entire exterior surface of the device in white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern.
- "15 C.F.R. Part 272—Marking of Toy, Look-Alike and Imitation Firearms". Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
This part applies to toy, look-alike, and imitation firearms (“devices”) having the appearance, shape, and/or configuration of a firearm and produced or manufactured and entered into commerce on or after May 5, 1989, including devices modelled on real firearms manufactured, designed, and produced since 1898. This part does not apply to:
Non-firing collector replica antique firearms, which look authentic and may be a scale model but are not intended as toys modelled on real firearms designed, manufactured, and produced prior to 1898;
Traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of compressed air, compressed gas or mechanical spring action, or any combination thereof, as described in American Society for Testing and Materials standard F 589-85, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Non-Powder Guns, June 28, 1985. This incorporation by reference was approved by the Director of the Federal Register in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. Copies may be obtained from the IHS Inc., 15 Inverness Way East, Englewood, CO 80112, www.global.ihs.com, Phone: 800.854.7179 or 303.397.7956, Fax: 303.397.2740, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy is available for inspection in the Office of the Chief Counsel for NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Telephone: (301) 975-2803, or at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: https://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html.
Decorative, ornamental, and miniature objects having the appearance, shape and/or configuration of a firearm, including those intended to be displayed on a desk or worn on bracelets, necklaces, key chains, and so on, provided that the objects measure no more than thirty-eight (38) millimeters in height by seventy (70) millimeters in length, the length measurement excluding any gun stock length measurement.
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- Alexander, Kurtis (July 8, 2014). "Boy with toy gun said to be high when shot by cop". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Andy Lopez fatal shooting by Santa Rosa police to be investigated by FBI". Associated Press. October 26, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- Wilkinson, Brett (October 25, 2013). "FBI to investigate Andy Lopez shooting". Press Democrat. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- Johnson, Julie. Deputy in Andy Lopez shooting returning to patrol, Press Democrat, August 15, 2014.
- Hansen, Jamie; Johnson, Julie. FBI finds no civil rights violations in Andy Lopez's death, Press Democrat, July 1, 2015.
- Espinoza, Martin (November 1, 2013). "Lopez attorney: Sheriff's office 'encourages' use of deadly force". Press Democrat. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- Payne, Paul (February 8, 2016). "Sonoma County filing could delay Lopez family's lawsuit by a year". Press Democrat. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- Payne, Paul (February 19, 2016). "Missing Santa Rosa attorney believed dead". Press Democrat. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- Scully, Sean (November 2, 2013). "Community discovering new unity after Lopez shooting". Press Democrat. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- Johnson, Julie (October 29, 2013). "Police: Second deputy still in car when Andy Lopez shot". Press Democrat. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
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- "Marchers gather in Santa Rosa to protest Andy Lopez killing". Press Democrat. November 5, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- "Multiple Bay Area Protests Saturday Over Andy Lopez Shooting". CBS News. November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
- Espinoza, Martin (November 26, 2013). "Several Andy Lopez demonstrators detained, cited". Press Democrat. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
- Payne, Paul. Prosecutors drop charges against Andy Lopez protester, Press Democrat, May 9, 2014.
- Espionza, Martin; Johnson, Julie (December 11, 2013). "Two arrested as Lopez protest halts meetings". Press Democrat. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
- "Tensions high at Tuesday's Andy Lopez protest". Press Democrat. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- Security guard says he was fired over Lopez t-shirt flap Archived 2014-07-29 at the Wayback Machine., KTVU, March 2, 2014.
- Protesters Demanding Justice For Slain 13-Year-Old Andy Lopez Block Hwy 101, Santa Rosa, CBS News, July 12, 2014.
- "Sonoma Supervisors give name, funding boost to park in memory of Andy Lopez". KTVU. March 16, 2016. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
- Law enforcement employee-involved fatal incident report (PDF) (Report). Sonoma County District Attorney's Office. 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2015.