Teen Boy shot dead for after brandishing toy gun
Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
13 year-old Andy Lopez was walking to his friend’s house in Santa Rosa, California on 22 October 2013 when two Sonoma County deputies (Michael Schemmel and Erick Gelhaus) spotted the young boy carrying what they thought was an AK-47 assault rifle which was in fact a toy airsoft gun that fires plastic projectiles. Stopping the police car the deputies demanded that he drop the gun. Still holding it, Lopez started to turn around. A deputy, believing he was in danger, fired several rounds. Lopez was shot seven times and died on the scene.
Investigators said the teen didn’t comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward deputies while raising the barrel when he was shot.
Later in October 2013 hundreds of demonstrators marched and rallied outside the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Rosa to protest the fatal shooting and to demand an FBI investigation. The protestors carried signs and hooded sweatshirts bearing photos of the boy.
One of the demonstrators, Victor Manieri, aged 15, a student at Elsie Allen High School who knew Andy, said; “I disagree with what the cops did that day. There are other methods such as using a Taser that would paralyze him, not take away his life.”
Supporters of the Lopez family say Santa Rosa Sheriff Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran and firearms instructor, should be indicted for murder. Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch concluded that Gelhaus should not face criminal charges because he fired at Andy while acting in what he believed was self-defence.
In November attorneys for the parents of Andy filed three wrongful death claims against Sonoma County while supporters of the family are demanded the immediate arrest of the deputy who shot him.
Alex Salazar, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer turned private investigator said; “They [the family] want justice. They want the process to take its course. They’re very hurt. They’re in shock. They’re bewildered by what’s happened here and feeling what a normal family would feel to lose someone.”
Salazar claimed that just 10 seconds passed between the time Deputy Gelhaus radioed in that he had a suspect with a weapon and the time he’d shot the child, according to Mr. Salazar.
“This guy did not wait! Tactics would dictate that if you have someone with an AK if you’re with a two-man patrol car, you’re going to stop. They’re going to radio for back up. They’re going to call an air ship, a helicopter, a police unit, to take an advantage,” he said.
Some states and cities have passed legislation that goes beyond the federal requirement, whether banning toy guns that look realistic or requiring that certain replica guns not be sold to minors. In 2003, members of the New York City Council attempted to ban toy guns entirely.
And in 2011, California State Senator, Kevin de Leon, pushed legislation that would have required the exterior surface of BB guns, which federal law does not require to be marked with blaze orange, to be brightly coloured, a change meant to make them harder to mistake for real firearms. Because of a push by gun rights advocates in the state, his communications director Caves says, the bill had to be narrowed until it affected only the County of Los Angeles.
County’s appeal in Andy Lopez wrongful death suit rejected
4 January 2018
Family files suit after officer kills child carrying BB gun
6 November 2013