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Police: 2nd deputy still in car when Andy Lopez shot


The 13-year-old Santa Rosa eighth-grader shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy was already mortally wounded by the time a second deputy got out of a patrol car and into position, Santa Rosa police investigators said Tuesday, one week after the shooting.

Middle schooler Andy Lopez was carrying an airsoft rifle that closely resembled an AK-47 assault-style weapon on Oct. 22 when Deputy Erick Gelhaus ordered Lopez to drop the gun, police officials said.

As Lopez turned toward the deputies, Gelhaus fired, but his partner did not.

Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry on Tuesday discussed for the first time the statements of the deputy who did not shoot at Lopez, details that began shedding light on a lingering question for many in the community following the fatal shooting: Why did only Deputy Gelhaus open fire?

There was no time, the second deputy told investigators, according to Henry.

"By the time he had exited his door and taken cover, at that point Deputy Gelhaus had already engaged the subject, with the commands and with the weapon," Henry said. "The threat was essentially over."

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has not yet named the deputy-in-training who was with Gelhaus. Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Due?s said that the deputy, who had 11 years' experience in law enforcement and was hired about one month ago from another Bay Area agency, is considered a witness and part of the Santa Rosa police investigation.

Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, was his training officer.

Neither the deputies nor the patrol car was equipped with audio or video recording equipment, Henry said.

Lopez, who wore a hooded sweatshirt with the hood down, had no headphones or earbuds that might have affected his hearing, according to new details police revealed Tuesday.

The deadly shooting took place at 3:14 p.m. Oct. 22 as Lopez walked from his family's home on Moorland to a friend's house.

Lopez was walking north on the west sidewalk of Moorland Avenue north of West Robles Avenue carrying in his left hand an airsoft gun described by police as a "replica AK-47 assault-style rifle." His hand was down at his side, Henry said.

On routine patrol, the training deputy was behind the wheel of the patrol car, and Gelhaus was in the passenger seat, Due?s said.

After spotting Lopez, the deputies alerted dispatch they were investigating a suspicious person.

In just a 10-second span, the deputy behind the wheel told police he pulled from the northbound lane of Moorland Avenue into the oncoming lane, turned the emergency lights on, briefly "chirped" the siren, and got out of the car behind the cover of the open door, Henry said.

Meanwhile, Gelhaus had already ordered the boy to drop the gun, exited the car and fired eight rounds with a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun, he said.

"They were both doing different things simultaneously, and Deputy Gelhaus was able to engage more quickly because he didn't have to drive the vehicle," Henry said.

Gelhaus told investigators that he fired after Lopez, who was holding the airsoft weapon by its pistol grip in his left hand, began turning to the right, the barrel of the weapon raised in his direction, according to police.

Gelhaus fired eight rounds, striking Lopez seven times. Two shots were fatal, according to the preliminary results of a Thursday autopsy.

Gelhaus later told investigators he "couldn't recall" if he had identified himself as law enforcement at the time, Henry said.

Henry said a witness interviewed the night of the shooting told police investigators he was driving in front of the sheriff's patrol car and, seeing Lopez with the weapon, shouted out to the teen.

"He yelled at the subject that he should put away the weapon because the cops were behind him," Henry said. "That occurred immediately before this incident. We spoke to him that night, and there is no reason to believe anything he said wasn't true."

After being shot, Lopez fell to the ground with the replica next to him. Gelhaus told police that he handcuffed Lopez. He said he moved the weapon away as well as a clear plastic handgun with an orange tip on the barrel in Lopez's waistband and began CPR and other life-saving measures, Henry said.

"When he touched the weapon and briefly looked at it, felt that it wasn't the proper weight and looked different, that was when he first began to suspect it was a replica firearm," Henry said.

Henry said he couldn't precisely describe the type of replica weapon Lopez carried because investigators did not include the specific make and model in the police report about the incident.

The weapon had already been booked into evidence and, according to police protocol, couldn't be retrieved without an evidentiary reason just to answer questions from the media.

Henry previously said he believed the gun fired plastic pellets and was clearly missing an orange tip on the barrel typically found on replica guns. Such "airsoft" guns are usually battery-powered and capable of shooting plastic BBs.

Santa Rosa and Petaluma police investigators are leading the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting because of Sonoma County's law enforcement protocol established more than 20 years ago that brings in an outside agency to review officer-involved fatalities.

The protocol calls for the investigation to take place within three months, although Henry said that, if needed, the investigation could be finished earlier or take longer.

Officers were interviewing all witnesses, processing evidence and treating the investigation as any other criminal matter, Henry said.

In response to The Press Democrat's request for a copy of the emergency dispatch recordings of the incident, Henry said investigators had not yet reviewed the recordings.

Henry said that after they do, the police department will discuss the request with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office, which will ultimately decide whether any criminal wrongdoing took place by any party involved in the shooting.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.