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Police investigation into Andy Lopez killing sent to District Attorney's Office

Santa Rosa and Petaluma police Wednesday delivered their final report on the fatal October shooting of Andy Lopez to District Attorney Jill Ravitch, but it may be many months before she decides whether to press any charges against the sheriff's deputy who shot and killed the 13-year-old boy.

"I recognize the community would like me to complete my review and make a decision in short order, however it's essential it be done in a thorough and complete fashion ... I have no intention of delaying this review but I will not be committed to a specific date for completion," Ravitch said after receiving the report.

Customarily, the D.A. reviews shootings involving an officer within 90 days of receiving the investigative report, but it is not a legal requirement that she do so.

Neither Ravitch nor Santa Rosa police, who led the investigation, would discuss the contents of the report or what, if any, recommendations investigators made about filing charges against Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

Gelhaus shot Lopez, a Santa Rosa eighth-grader, Oct. 22 as the youth was walking up Moorland Avenue carrying an airsoft-style BB gun designed to resemble an assault rifle. Gelhaus encountered the boy while riding in a patrol car being driven by another deputy. He reportedly mistook it for a real weapon and opened fire after yelling at Lopez to drop the gun. He told investigators Lopez was turning toward him and he felt threatened by the manner in which he was raising the BB gun.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has not revealed the name of the second deputy involved in the shooting, citing his potential role as a "witness" in the incident. Santa Rosa police investigating the shooting have said the second deputy, who was still behind the wheel of the patrol car when Lopez was shot, was on a training assignment with Gelhaus.

The shooting sparked a wave of outrage and a series of protests that have continued into the new year. Protesters have called for Gelhaus to face charges, saying he did not give the youth proper notice of his presence or enough time, mere seconds, to respond. They have also called for broader change, including greater investment in the heavily Latino neighborhood where Lopez lives and an overhaul of how law enforcement agencies are trained and monitored.

Activists have pushed to turn the vacant lot at the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues, next to where Lopez was shot, into a park in his memory. The lot has been covered with make-shift memorials and remains the sight of frequent protests and vigils.

The shooting has added urgency to a decadeslong discussion about annexing unincorporated pockets of Sonoma County into Santa Rosa. The neighborhood in which Lopez was shot is commonly regarded as part of Santa Rosa but falls outside city limits and is served by sheriff's deputies rather than Santa Rosa police.

County supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council have appointed a 21-member task force to recommend possible changes to the county's law enforcement system. That group held its first two meetings this month.


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