We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

"It's a done deal, folks," Casillas said. "They have already concluded it was justified. Shame on them."

Santa Rosa police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, whose department is investigating the death, later defended the review, calling his investigators qualified and competent.

He said putting the weapons side by side during an initial press conference was the clearest way to answer public questions about what kind of weapon Lopez carried compared with the weapon Gelhaus described in statements to investigators.

"We felt that was helpful information to have without challenging the integrity of the investigation," he said. "We didn't express an opinion, it was factual information."

Sonoma County Counsel Bruce Goldstein called the federal lawsuit premature, saying it could interfere with the investigation. He denied previous claims that the Sheriff's Office encourages deputies to shoot suspects who pose no threat or danger.

"There will be time to have a civil action and determine at the end of that if any damages are due to the family," Goldstein said. "But to rush to court now while the criminal investigation is pending really undermines the criminal investigation."

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Casillas said a jury could decide the amount but he expected it could exceed the $24 million he won last year for the family of a Los Angeles boy who was shot and paralyzed by police when he was playing with an airsoft gun, which fires plastic BBs.

The lawsuit alleges Lopez was killed without reasonable cause in violation of constitutional limits on police authority. It names Gelhaus and the County of Sonoma as defendants.

Casillas said he was in the process of interviewing at least eight witnesses and would depose Gelhaus at a future date.

"We will ask him, 'What the hell were you thinking?'" Casillas said. "This is a 13-year-old."

He said his findings so far indicate Gelhaus and another deputy should have realized Andy Lopez was a boy carrying a BB gun when they drove up behind him on Moorland Avenue, sprang from their patrol car and confronted him from 35 feet away.

He said another person in the area that day saw the 5-foot-3-inch, 140-pound teen and concluded he was a kid with a BB gun.

"Andy was just a kid," Casillas said. "He shouldn't have been shot."

Gelhaus told police he thought the airsoft gun was an high-powered assault rifle and ordered Lopez to drop the weapon. The boy turned toward the deputy, raising the barrel of his gun, police said. Gelhaus told investigators he opened fire, fearing for the safety of himself, his partner and the neighborhood.

Casillas said Gelhaus started shooting as the boy turned. A bullet struck Lopez in the chest, piercing his heart, he said. Gelhaus continued to fire as Lopez lay on the ground, mortally wounded, according to the lawsuit.

Some bullets hit a nearby house, Casillas said.

"Gelhaus basically unloads in a super-reckless way," Casillas said. "To say it was reckless doesn't even come close."

Casillas said the first shot was fired within three seconds of Gelhaus' command, a slightly quicker timeline than offered by police.

He also said both deputies exited the car at once. A report from Santa Rosa police said Gelhaus got out first.

There was no evidence that Andy Lopez had a chance to raise the gun, Casillas said.

Pot around Sonoma County

Three Sonoma County cannabis dispensaries will be open for adult-use sales on Jan. 1, 2018:

11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
785 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol

SPARC/Peace in Medicine
10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
6771 Sebastopol Ave. #100, Sebastopol

Mercy Wellness of Cotati
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
7950 Redwood Drive #8, Cotati

Pot around Sonoma County

Sebastopol: Adult-use and medical cannabis sales take place at the city’s two dispensaries. Manufacturing and other aspects of the business will be considered in 2018. Indoor cultivation for personal use is allowed.

Cotati: Allows adult-use and medical cannabis sales at its sole dispensary.

Santa Rosa: Medical marijuana businesses are allowed in the city. Santa Rosa will allow sales of adult-use cannabis on Jan. 19. Indoor cultivation for personal use is allowed.

Cloverdale: Up to two cannabis dispensaries are allowed in the city, although there are none currently. Manufacturing, distribution and cultivation business permit applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Petaluma: Allows cannabis delivery services and some cannabis manufacturing but has not allowed any dispensaries inside city limits.

Windsor: Dispensaries and other types of cannabis businesses as well as outdoor cultivation is banned in Windsor. Residents must get a town permit for personal-use cultivation, which is only allowed to occur indoors.

Sonoma city: Cannabis cultivation, indoor and outdoor, is banned but the rule will be reconsidered December 2018. Delivery businesses with headquarters outside the city must acquire a city permit to conduct deliveries in the city. Some personal cultivation is allowed but residents must comply with a variety of city requirements like security systems.

Sonoma County: Rules are in places for medical marijuana businesses and supervisors will consider rules for adult use in 2018.

Rohnert Park: Does not all manufacturing, distributing or selling marijuana within city limits.

Healdsburg: Prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries.


Find more in-depth cannabis news, culture and politics at EmeraldReport.com, authoritative marijuana coverage from the PD.

Terry Leoni, an attorney representing Gelhaus in the criminal and administrative investigations, said that any implication that Gelhaus was reckless goes against his decorated 24-year history with the Sheriff's Office.

"He has never fired his weapon in the line of duty before, he trains younger deputies," Leoni said. "Calling him reckless is certainly out of character."

She noted Gelhaus received the office's Medal of Valor in 2004 for pulling occupants of a burning vehicle to safety.

Leoni said her firm is not involved in the federal case or a tort claim filed in Sonoma County Superior Court.

The county will be representing Gelhaus in those matters.

The federal lawsuit questioned Gelhaus' fitness to be a deputy.

It pointed to an incident in 1995 when he accidentally shot himself in the leg. In 1996, the suit said he pulled his gun on a woman carrying her young son when he responded to a neighbor dispute. The suit said Gelhaus chased her around her car, causing "great fear and anxiety."

The same year, according to the suit, Gelhaus and a partner falsified reports in a domestic violence case, leading to the partner's firing.

More recently, the suit said Gelhaus pulled a gun on a Santa Rosa man during a traffic stop last month.

Goldstein would not comment on the accusations, saying Gelhaus' personnel file was confidential.

The case has sparked marches in the streets of Santa Rosa and drawn international attention. On Monday, the Mexican consulate in San Francisco requested that the results of the investigation be released as soon as possible and that liability be established.

Today, demonstrators plan to march through downtown Santa Rosa to demand that Gelhaus be held accountable for the shooting. The march is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. in Old Courthouse Square and end at the District Attorney's Office.

Casillas said he brought the lawsuit in federal court in part to bring more attention to the case. He challenged local authorities, including the District Attorney's Office, to conduct a thorough review.

"What we believe the lawsuit will prove is that in Sonoma County ... there is a practice of using deadly force and covering it up by investigations that are superficial," Casillas said.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said she will oversee the investigation to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

In a statement issued late Monday, Ravitch said there is no basis for the state Attorney General to take a role because there is no conflict of interest. However, Ravitch said she has lodged a formal inquiry with the Attorney General to determine if her assessment is correct.

(The lawsuit filed Monday identified Lopez's mother as Sujay. In a tort claim filed Thursday with the county, her name is spelled Sujey. A family friend said her full name is Sujey Lopez Cruz.)

<b>(Read the filing <a href="http://bit.ly/1bTnX06">here</b>)</a>

Staff Writers Brett Wilkison and Julie Johnson contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

Show Comment