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