The parents of 13-year-old Andy Lopez amended their federal lawsuit against the county Tuesday with new allegations about the deputy who killed their son as well as additional claims for damages under state law.
Rodrigo and Sujey Lopez of Santa Rosa allege in the 20-page document filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that Deputy Erick Gelhaus had a history of using excessive force. The Sheriff's Office was aware of the incidents, the lawsuit said.
The amended lawsuit cites several incidents, including a 1996 case in which the 28-year veteran is accused of pulling his gun on a woman and her child in a neighborhood dispute. It also mentions an October case in which the deputy is accused of drawing his firearm on a man during a minor traffic stop.
<NO1><NO>The suit also claims Gelhaus espoused "extremist views" and "questionable" tactics while writing for online magazines, including one post explaining how officers must respond to justify shooting a child with a toy gun.
Lopez was killed Oct. 22 while walking along Moorland Avenue with an airsoft BB gun designed to resemble an assault rifle. Gelhaus told investigators he thought the teenager was armed with an AK-47. The veteran deputy told police he ordered the boy to drop the gun, then opened fire when Lopez turned and raised the barrel in his direction. He shot Lopez seven times.
After the shooting, Gelhaus deleted his online comments to conceal his beliefs, the lawsuit said.
"Not surprisingly, after wrongfully shooting and killing Andy Lopez, Gelhaus recognized that his online postings and commentary would tend to show he held extremist views, used bad tactics and had a tendency to use excessive force," the lawsuit said.
A lawyer for the Lopez family, Arnoldo Casillas, was expected to serve the amended lawsuit on the county clerk after attending Tuesday's lengthy Board of Supervisors meeting.
He said outside the meeting his claims about Gelhaus are important because they prove the county was negligent in employing him.
"The Sheriff's Office has to know who is working for them and who is indoctrinating their deputies," Casillas said.
Casillas said the family continues to grieve. Sujey Lopez fell into a depression when a shrine to her son was destroyed by fire last week, he said. But the family has accepted fire officials' conclusion that the fire was accidental and not an act of arson.
County Counsel Bruce Goldstein said Tuesday that the county had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, which was first filed in November.
Sheriff Steve Freitas declined to comment, referring questions about the lawsuit to Goldstein. Gelhaus' lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The first court hearing is Feb. 6, Casillas said.