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.