Inside Opinion: So what became of the Andy Lopez investigation?

  • 5/17/2014:B1: Jill Ravitch: Sonoma County district attorney must decide whether a sheriff's deputy will face charges in the shooting death of Andy Lopez.

    PC: Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch listens to her opponent Victoria Shanahan, during a debate sponsored by the Sonoma County Bar Association at the Fountain Grove Inn, Friday April 18, 2014 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2014

<i>What follows are excerpts from the Inside Opinion blog by Press Democrat editorial writers Paul Gullixson and Jim Sweeney. The blog can be found at WatchSonomaCounty.com.</i>

Six months ago, it appeared that the decision on whether to prosecute Deputy Erick Gelhaus in the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez would be a seminal issue in this year's race for Sonoma County district attorney.

But it hasn't turned out that way, primarily because the incumbent, Jill Ravitch, who is being challenged by Deputy District Attorney Victoria Shanahan in Tuesday's primary, has yet to announce her decision.

The department's guideline is to review law enforcement investigations of officer-involved shootings, conduct additional investigations and announce a decision within 90 days. As of today, it has been four months since the district attorney received the report on the Lopez shooting from the Santa Rosa and Petaluma police departments.

Granted, Ravitch has been on the hot spot since day one, not just on whether to pursue criminal charges. State a position too quickly, and she opens herself up to criticism of not being thorough. Go too slowly, and she's vulnerable to accusations of being too political. This is particularly true if the decision is made after Tuesday's election, which now appears inevitable.

"The truth of the matter is we are still working on the case," Ravitch told me Friday when I called to ask her about it. She was adamant that the reason for the delay "is in no way connected to this election."

As evidence, Ravitch said her office had received new information as recently as Thursday from an expert who was contacted as part of the investigation. "As a result, this expert produced a statement that was new to us," she said.

In fact, DA investigators, with the assistance of someone from the FBI, were out at the location of the Oct. 22 shooting on Friday doing further analysis, according to Ravitch and lead investigator Brian Davis.

"It's an investigation that continues," she said.

She said she shares the public interest in seeing a resolution. "But I remind you, and I remind your readers, that this is not an unusually long period of time for an investigation of this nature," she said.

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