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‘Remembering Andy Lopez’ event to mark 8 years since 13-year-old was killed by deputy

Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the death of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy who was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy in 2013.

A “Remembering Andy Lopez” observance will be held at Andy’s Unity Park at Moorland and West Robles avenues from 5 to 7 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring flowers, candles, songs, poems and prayers.

“On this day in 2013, a Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff stole Andy from his family and from us,” reads the event’s flyer, distributed in both English and Spanish.

Lopez was walking with an airsoft gun along Moorland Avenue on Oct. 22, 2013, when Deputy Erick Gelhaus and his patrol partner came upon him and ordered him to drop his weapon, which sheriff’s officials said appeared to be a rifle.

The deputies called in a suspicious person report to dispatchers and radioed for backup. Seconds later, Gelhaus fired several shots at Lopez. He said that he saw the boy turn toward him and raise the barrel of the gun, which turned out to be a plastic replica.

Lopez was shot seven times and died at the scene.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch’s office cleared Gelhaus of criminal wrongdoing. He was promoted to sergeant in 2016 and retired in 2019.

Weeks after Lopez was killed, his family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Gelhaus, the Sheriff’s Office and the county, which they settled for $3 million in 2018.

Community organizations have held anniversary vigils for Lopez nearly every year since. Today, Lopez’s death and its fallout still stoke anger and pain in the community. His name was among the many rallying cries of last summer’s protests against police violence in Sonoma County.

The boy’s death is also the focus of a recent investigative documentary, “3 Seconds in October,” which uses previously confidential police investigation records, interviews and court documents to reconstruct a detailed account of the shooting and its aftermath.

According to a statement from Sonoma County independent filmmaker Ron Rogers, the 28-minute documentary has spurred a reexamination of the shooting.

“That was not information that I had available to me at the time that I made the decision that I did,” District Attorney Ravitch said in a July interview with local radio station KSRO, regarding details that came to light in the years following her 2014 decision not to press charges against Gelhaus. “I don’t know if I would have come to the same conclusion.”

Jerry Threet, a civil rights lawyer and former director of the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Oversight, is also preparing to request California Attorney General Rob Bonta revisit the Lopez shooting and determine whether Gelhaus should be held criminally liable for the boy’s death.

“The petition will request that the AG review the Gelhaus criminal investigation in light of recent revelations that call into question the integrity of that investigation,” Threet told The Press Democrat.

Threet said the documentary reveals that investigators told Gelhaus they were viewing him as the “victim,” that Gelhaus was given hours to prepare for his interview, and that incriminating evidence against the officer was never explored by authorities. Some records in the case only became available to the public after the 2018 passage of SB 1421, which makes records of police internal investigations open to the public.

“Their investigative interview of Gelhaus likewise was not thorough or complete, further suggesting bias,” Threet said.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said they had nothing to add to earlier statements about the case. Previously, the agency has said officials had not viewed the film, “so we unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to respond to specific concerns or criticism. As far as the case itself, the (Sheriff’s) Office has made numerous public statements over the years. It’s a tragic situation, and we continue to work with our community to heal.”

Two Bay Area television stations will rerun “3 Seconds in October,” originally broadcast in July, in the coming week. KRCB will show the film 10:30 p.m. Friday, 11 p.m. Sunday and 10 p.m. Wednesday; KPJK will show it 10 p.m. Saturday and Thursday.

Organizers said they intend to hold Friday’s event rain or shine.

You can reach Staff Writer Emily Wilder at 707-521-5337 or emily.wilder@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @vv1lder.

Emily Wilder

Criminal justice and public safety, The Press Democrat  

Criminal justice is one of the most stirring and consequential systems, both in the North Bay and nationwide. Crime, policing, prosecution and incarceration have ripples that reach many parts of our lives, and these issues are under increasingly powerful microscopes. My goal is to uncover untold stories and understand the unique impacts of criminal justice and public safety on Sonoma County.

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