Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus cleared in shooting of Andy Lopez

So, the California criminal case of Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus’ shooting Andy Lopez has been resolved, as the DA has declined charges against Gelhaus.

“Prosecutors said Monday they will not file criminal charges against a Northern California sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun he mistook for an assault rifle. The parents of Andy Lopez decried the decision, saying “it is impossible” to accept and they felt as though their son “had been killed again.”

Erick Gelhaus shot Lopez on Oct. 22 as the teen walked in a Santa Rosa neighborhood with the pellet gun. The deputy told investigators he believed the gun was real and opened fire out of fear for his life.

 

Gelhaus fired eight times, striking the eighth-grader seven times with his department-issued 9 mm handgun. The district attorney said Gelhaus had 18 rounds in his gun and stopped shooting when he felt the threat had ended. Lopez was declared dead at the scene.” – via http://www.policeone.com/officer-shootings/articles/7355600-No-charges-for-deputy-who-killed-teen-carrying-replica/

The FBI is still looking into possible Civil Rights violations, and the family will sue. So this is far from over. But let’s look at why Deputy Gelhaus was not charged, even though there was tremendous political pressure.

Graham V Connor (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=490&invol=386) states that police use of force must be reasonable given the circumstances available to the officer at the time the trigger is pulled. The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Pp. 490 U. S. 396-397.

Monday morning quarterbacking may show different circumstance, but THE OFFICER IS JUDGED ONLY ON THE FACTS AVAILABLE TO THE OFFICER AT THE TIME. When the trigger was pulled, Deputy Gelhaus had an “armed individual refusing multiple lawful orders to comply”. That is what Gelhaus saw, and that is what Gelhaus had a split second to react to. The facts uncovered during the subsequent months long investigation are real vent to the case, but not to the issue of the reasonableness of the use of force.

So was this tragic? Yes. Do police want to kill people? No. Was the suspect in control of the amount of force used? Yes. Did the suspects actions (whether or not he intended) cause the officer to feel threatened? Yes.

The family wants answers. I would too. I would want answers to questions like “why did my son purposefully remove the mandated orange tip on the replica rifle and the replica pistol he was carrying?” “Why was my 13 year old son high on marijuana, and in possession of marijuana at the time of his death?” “Why was my son not in school at 3:12pm when the school let out at 3:30?”

Perhaps the parents don’t want to ask those types of questions. 13 year olds are just kids. They make poor decisions sometimes. It is up to the parents to teach right from wrong. This is tragic for all parties involved.

-Jason

3 thoughts on “Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus cleared in shooting of Andy Lopez

  1. I understand that the facts known afterwards shouldn’t be used to judge the actions taken. That isn’t my beef with what went down.

    That is what Gelhaus saw, and that is what Gelhaus had a split second to react to.

    THAT is what I have a problem with. It is incomprehensible to say he “only” had a split second to react…..he could and — and definitely in my opinion should have, taken longer before firing.

    It doesn’t appear that the kid took any aggressive action, didn’t appear confrontational and didn’t appear to aim or start to fire. The cop simply did not give him enough time to respond.

    Some rolls up on me and starts yelling commands — multiple commands without a chance to verbally respond, I might not instantly process and obey.

    And that, in my opinion, was why the officer shot — the kid didn’t instantly obey.

    Bob S.

    • Jason here. Bob S, we are all entitled to our own opinion. But the facts paint the picture.

      The in car video and the bullets impacting the kid in the side show the kid was turning to face the officer. I have not seen the video. But the DA , civilian review board and grand jury did. They all came to the same conclusion.

      Tragic. Horrible. Painful. Sad. But justifiable give the circumstance.

      From the time of the first contact to the time the shooting ended, 17 seconds. “Seven bullets hit Andy within 6 seconds, two of them delivering fatal wounds with one round hitting him on his side while he was turning to face the police, according to an autopsy.” So set your watch, and for 11 seconds, yell “drop it” or “col√≥quelo”, “freeze” or “no te mueva”. I can yell freeze about dozen times easily.

      Split second or 10 seconds? The end result is still the same.

      I am sure the deputy wishes the kid was still alive.

      (This is of course ignoring the fact the kid was kicked out of his old school a week before and was placed into “alternative” school for kids with violence issues and substance abuse issues. He was skipping that school at the time to smoke pot and walk around with replica rifle… So I think the kid had a hard time with following instructions to begin with.)

      • Jason,

        I’m not arguing the deputy lied or that the shooting didn’t happen the way it was reported.

        We have a cop who took 17 seconds from first contact to the time the shooting ended. Did it need to be ONLY 17 seconds or could the officer had held his fire longer?

        The mindset of the officer is what I’m questioning.

        Gelhaus, 49, wanted to “give his trainee an opportunity to be more proactive,” according to the report

        Could training, attitude, culture, etc indoctrinate an expectation of instant obedience and dire consequences if not ?

        We see examples of this reported frequently. Cops making illegal demands (show me your id, stop filming,etc) and then arresting people if they aren’t obeyed. We see cops shooting people in mere seconds.

        We see a strong influx of not just military weaponry and veterans but of mindset — us versus them, rules of engagement. Are the cops supposed to be Peace Officers?

        Yes the kid wasn’t an angel. I’m not not arguing he doesn’t have a measure of responsibility in his own death.

        What I’m trying to get at is simply “Are cops shooting too fast and if they are, why?”

        Bob S.

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