s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa in 2013 has been promoted to sergeant, a sheriff’s spokesman said Friday.

Erick Gelhaus, a 26-year department veteran, was promoted in May after taking part in a competitive, civil service process, Sgt. Spencer Crum said.

The move, approved by Sheriff Steve Freitas, came about 2½ years after the controversial shooting that sparked protests about police use of force and calls for civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies. Gelhaus was cleared of wrongdoing following a lengthy investigation.

With the promotion, Gelhaus, 51, received a pay boost from $49.19 to $55 per hour. He made about $124,000, including overtime, in 2015, according to county records.

Gelhaus was “highly qualified” and “ranked highly on our list” of deputies eligible for promotion to sergeant, Crum said.

He was previously a field training officer, firearms instructor and is an Iraq War veteran.

In the new position, he supervises eight to 10 deputies patrolling central Sonoma County.

A request to interview Gelhaus was declined by Crum, who said the sergeant could not speak about his promotion while a lawsuit filed by Lopez’s parents is pending against him, the county and the Sheriff’s Office. The suit claims Gelhaus was negligent in the fatal shooting.

His promotion drew criticism from community activists who have been critical of the Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Lopez’s death. The North Bay Organizing Project posted on Facebook this week that the Sheriff’s Office promoted an “openly white supremacist cop.” The group’s director, Susan Shaw, said the system failed to hold him accountable for killing a Latino child.

“It’s an affront to our community,” Shaw said.

Crum said Freitas expected unhappiness from some over the promotion. But Freitas thinks a majority of the public wants him to abide by rules allowing employees to pursue career advancement, Crum said.

“Providing opportunities for his members to promote is not only moral duty, but a legal and human right,” Crum said. “He followed the law, rules and policy by promoting Sgt. Gelhaus, and he refused to treat him any differently than any other deputy who tested for the position.”

Gelhaus’ duties include a mix of field and desk work. Like other sergeants, he’ll oversee in-progress calls and also approve daily reports, conduct employee evaluations and handle scheduling, Crum said.

Shaw said Gelhaus should not be managing deputies.

“How scary is that?” Shaw said. “That he’s out in the neighborhood and he’s supervising people? It is not OK.”

Freitas was on vacation Friday and unavailable to comment, Crum said. Efren Carrillo, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, declined to comment, deferring to the Sheriff’s Office on what he described as a “personnel matter.”

Lopez, an eighth-grader at Cook Middle School, was shot and killed by Gelhaus in October 2013, as he walked along a southwest Santa Rosa street carrying an airsoft BB gun resembling an AK-47. Gelhaus said he mistook the replica for a real firearm and shot Lopez when the youth turned toward him.

A plastic orange tip identifying the gun as non-lethal had been removed.

Arnoldo Casillas, the attorney representing Lopez’s parents in their lawsuit, did not return a call Friday seeking comment.

Show Comment