California Deputy Who Shot And Killed An Unarmed 13-Year-Old Boy Will Not Face Charges

Andy Lopez was shot seven times by the deputy who mistook the teen’s pellet gun for a real rifle.

Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy in Northern California who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez in October last year.

Andy Lopez and a replica of his assault rifle. AP Photo/Family via The Press Democrat, Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, File

Deputy Erick Gelhaus of Sonoma County shot Lopez seven times after Gelhaus believed that the teenager’s pellet gun was a real AK-47. Lopez died at the scene.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Monday, that her office would not file charges against Gelhaus after an investigation concluded that he fired his weapon at the teen in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death.

The fatal shooting immediately sparked numerous protests and calls for criminal charges against the deputy. Protests resumed when Gelhaus returned to work in December.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez


Hundreds marched in protest of Andy Lopez’s shooting in Santa Rosa, California, in October 2013.

In a statement, the Lopez family said that the “disheartening decision leaves the family feeling as though Andy had been killed again today.”

The parents of Andy Lopez Cruz, Sujey Cruz and Rodrigo Lopez, in a silent protest outside the Santa Rosa City Hall. Staff / Reuters

Calling Gelhuas’ actions “exaggerated and careless,” the family said, “No reasonable officer in such circumstances could believe he was encountering anything but a teenager with a toy gun on a sunny afternoon in a residential area.”

They also called Ravitch’s decision a “cowardly political” one that will send the message that Sonoma’s law enforcement officials who use “excessive force” will enjoy immunity from local prosecution.

The family said it intends to petition the U.S. District court to lift the stay of the proceedings against Gelhaus and to urge the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office to conduct an “impartial investigation” into their son’s shooting.

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Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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