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Teen shot for having play gun investigation completed by police department

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The investigation into the Oct. 22 shooting of a teenage boy has been completed by the Santa Rosa Police Department. The investigation was being conducted in conjunction with the Petaluma Police Department. The final reports were transmitted to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office.

Andy Lopez, 13 was carrying an airsoft BB rifle that looked like an AK-47 rifle as he walked on Moorland Avenue on Oct. 22, 2013. Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy Gelhaus, 48 came upon Lopez and ordered him to put down the gun. Gelhaus has stated that he thought the rifle Lopez was carrying was real.

Gelhaus claimed that when Lopez failed to put down the rifle he fired eight shots, seven of which hit Lopez. Lopez was declared at the scene of the shooting. Gelhaus contends that he only fired his weapon because he felt that he and his partner’s lives were endangered when he saw the barrel of the rifle lift up.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch confirmed that she had received the final report at the same time the Santa Rosa police department announced that they had concluded their investigation. In a news release, Ravitch stated, “It is time for my staff to begin the process of thoroughly reviewing and considering all the facts and circumstances within the context of the guiding legal principles.

According to Ravitch, her office will decide if there were any violations of criminal law and if anyone should be prosecuted. She went on to say that a summary and recommendation will be sent to the Sonoma County Grand Jury and present the investigation information to the grand jury upon request. “It is not the role of the District Attorney to evaluate a law enforcement agency’s tactical policies or consider civil, legal or liabilities.”

"Our office may determine that further investigation or evidence gathering is necessary," Ravitch said. "If justice demands that additional investigation be done, we will not hesitate to do so regardless of the time it may take. I understand that the public is aware that the protocol sets a guideline of 90 days from the receipt of the report for the District Attorney's determination. I caution the public to remember that this timeline is not a legal requirement, but a recommendation."

Since the shooting of Andy Lopez, there have been at least 10 protest marches. The Lopez family has filed a civil rights violation and wrongful death complaint in federal court against the sheriff’s office and Sonoma County. According to the lawsuit, the family alleges that Sonoma County was negligent when they allowed Gelhaus to continue to have access to the public knowing that he had vision problems.

The family also claims the county was negligent for allowing him to remain a law enforcement officer with an excessive force complaint was leveled against him for unjustifiably drawing and misfiring his firearm in the past.

©Kelly Cozzone, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. The first two sentences may be reposted with a link back to the original article.

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