Andy Lopez protesters rally against decision to put deputy back on patrol

  • About 40 people protested the return to duty of Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa 10 months ago.

A group of activists angered by word that the deputy who shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez was returning to patrol duty gathered Saturday in front of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to denounce the decision.

Wielding signs with phrases such as “We don’t want killer cops here” and “We’re not against cops. We’re against thug cops,” about 40 people assembled shortly after 1 p.m. on the steps of the sheriff’s headquarters on Ventura Avenue.

Sebastopol resident Barbara Briggs-Letson marveled at the explanation given by sheriff’s officials Friday that Deputy Erick Gelhaus was being returned to active duty because he had done nothing wrong.

“They just don’t get it,” Briggs-Letson said.

Other protesters had more pointed and profane messages for sheriff’s officials.

Nicole Guerra, whose family was close to Lopez and has been active in the group Andy’s Youth, said teenagers in the Moorland Avenue area now must live in fear that the deputy who shot their friend could confront them someday.

“Someone come out here and explain that sh-- to us,” Guerra yelled.

As she spoke, one of her young sons played with a plastic squirt gun, another wore an image pinned to his shirt of a heart pierced by a bullet in the center of a sniper target.

Officials announced Friday that Gelhaus will return to patrol duty this week, nearly 10 months after he shot and killed Lopez as the boy walked down a residential street near his home on the outskirts of Santa Rosa carrying a plastic BB gun designed to resemble an AK-47 assault rifle.

The decision follows an internal department decision that allowed Gelhaus to return to administrative duty in December and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office decision in July clearing Gelhaus of any criminal wrongdoing.

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