Open Mic: The Truth About Andy Lopez’s Death Comes Out

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Lady justice - Unsplash
Lady justice. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

After twice seeing Ron Rogers’ powerful documentary “3 Seconds in October: The Shooting of Andy Lopez,” this concerned citizen was more than a little interested to see what Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch would have to say about it at the Oakmont Democrats meeting on July 22.

The film revealed that the Santa Rosa Police Department, which was charged with investigating the death, applied a heavy layer of twisted logic into its investigation of Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who shot  the 13-year-old  boy as he quietly walked down the street with an airsoft rifle in his left hand.

As shown in the documentary, Gelhaus mistakenly took the toy gun as real.  He jumped out of the squad car, shouted “drop the gun” and began shooting “within a couple seconds,” after issuing the command.  All told, Gelhuas pumped seven rounds into the boy in six seconds.

In the immediate aftermath of the death, Gelhaus was escorted to meet with his union rep and an attorney in a hotel room for six hours before reporting to the police to give his testimony.  At the outset, Detective Brian Boettger advised Gelhaus that “this is a criminal investigation and you are being interviewed as the victim, strictly the victim at this point.”

That astounding revelation with its undeniable bias made clear that the singular purpose of this investigation would be to clear Gelhaus of any criminal charges.  During a 2014 press conference, Ravitch exonerated the deputy, saying that his actions had been “reasonable.” 

At the Oakmont meeting, Ravitch tried to defend her decision by repeating some of the old tropes in the case, i.e. “He didn’t know that [Andy] was a child. He saw who he thought was a  young adult.”  And the most egregious of the lot: “He saw what he believed to be a weapon pointed toward him and he reasonably believed that he was at imminent threat of great bodily injury and harm.”

As we all are now well aware from Gelhaus’ 2015 deposition in the Lopez family’s civil suit, when asked “Did he actually point the gun at you,” Gelhaus responded, “I don’t know.” 

A bit later in the testimony, Gelhaus was given a replica weapon and asked to demonstrate just how Andy turned.  He held the rifle in his left hand and turned his torso slightly to the right.  “It was this,” he said.  And, as clearly shown in the film, the rifle remained squarely pointed at the ground.

At this juncture at the Oakmont Dems meeting, this member of the public emphasized the emergence of significant new information about this case and implored Ms. Ravitch to reopen the case.  She responded that, if provided new information, she would “take a look at it.”  

You already have all of this information but here it is again, Jill. We expect you to take action before mid-September.  We demand justice for Andy and we’re not going away.  

Kathleen Finigan is a Sonoma County resident and longtime law enforcement accountability activist.