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VIDEO: Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed

"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.

Andy Lopez Press Conference

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"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."


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