source: The Press Democrat
published: 22 October 2021
About four dozen people stood around the stone memorial, decorated in marigolds and votive candles persistently flickering against the cold autumnal wind at Andy’s Unity Park on Friday. It was the eighth anniversary of the death of the park’s namesake at the hands of a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy.
Maria Ponce prayed the rosary in warbling Spanish in front of the group. Masked faces turned down, and a handful of attendees mournfully mumbled prayers in response.
Andy Lopez was 13 when he was shot and killed by Deputy Erick Gelhaus on Oct. 22, 2013. He was walking near the intersection of Moorland and West Robles avenues by the then-empty lot now occupied by playgrounds and picnic tables, carrying an airsoft rifle designed to resemble an assault weapon, when Gelhaus and his partner encountered him.
Gelhaus said that he had shot the boy after commanding him to put down the plastic rifle, which the deputy said he mistook for a real gun. Seven bullets struck the boy’s body, and he died there on the sidewalk.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch’s office did not press criminal charges against Gelhaus, who was promoted to sergeant in 2016 and retired in 2019. Ravitch suggested in a July interview with KSRO that an investigation conducted today might have turned out differently, because of information she did not have at the time she made her original decision not to charge Gelhaus.