A group protesting the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy is urging state Attorney General Kamala Harris to intervene, saying the incident has become too politicized and the public has lost faith that it will be handled fairly.
Jonathan Melrod, a Sebastopol lawyer and organizer with the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, said this week in a letter to Harris that the ongoing criminal review of Dep. Erick Gelhaus' actions has become fraught with "subterfuge, delay and political taint" and that Harris must take over.
A main concern is that District Attorney Jill Ravitch has become too closely allied with Sheriff Steve Freitas as they both seek re-election, creating a conflict of interest as she considers the possibility of charges for his deputy, Melrod said.
Also, Melrod said Ravitch's office has devolved into "vicious internecine warfare" as her re-election opponent, Deputy District Attorney Victoria Shanahan, publicly criticizes her for a lack of transparency and for not removing herself from the case.
"At this juncture, the case of 13-year-old Andy Lopez has unfortunately become a political football being kicked back and forth between opposing electoral camps in the D.A.'s office," Melrod wrote. "No fair, impartial or thorough investigation can result from such a morass of political infighting."
Nick Pacilio, an attorney general spokesman, said Friday the office received the letter and was reviewing it. He could not say if the state would intervene in the case.
Ravitch said Friday the attorney general previously found she did not have a conflict. Ravitch sought an opinion Nov. 1 and "nothing has changed in the interim with regard to our ability to do the review," she said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Diana Gomez, along with a senior investigator, is handling the case and will make a recommendation to Ravitch about whether the shooting was justified or a criminal act.
"I have confidence in the review that is underway," Ravitch said. "If the attorney general feels that office is more appropriate to do the review, I would be more than happy to turn all the materials over to them."
But protesters said the situation has spiralled over the past few weeks as the election heats up.