Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch released a long-awaited decision Monday that the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, on Oct. 22, 2013, was not cause for criminal charges against Erik Gelhaus, the Sheriff’s deputy who killed the boy as he carried a toy replica of an AK-47 assault rifle on a Santa Rosa sidewalk.
Ravitch announced in a prematurely distributed press release that no criminal charges will be filed against Deputy Gelhaus, a weapons expert who fired seven shots into the boy as he carried an airsoft BB gun looking almost identical to the real thing. The distinctive orange tip required by law to be on the end of the barrel of a replica toy gun was reportedly missing when Lopez was shot.
Ravitch held a 2 p.m. press conference in Santa Rosa to make the announcement, but news media received an email about the event hours earlier with an incomplete press release revealing the decision inadvertently attached to the email. Minutes later, news outlets received a second email asking to “recall” the press release.
At the press conference, Ravitch said a 52-page synopsis of the District Attorney’s Report to the Sonoma County Grand Jury, outlining the lengthy investigation, along with the reasons for the decision not to file charges, was released. Ravitch said the report concludes that Gelhaus “fired his weapon in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or others. As such, he was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others, and no basis for seeking criminal charges exists.”
Ravitch acknowledged that the finding will not alleviate the pain felt by the Lopez family, those involved in the tragedy, or the community. “It is incumbent upon us to move forward to address the many layers of concern uncovered by this tragedy, and work together to rebuild trust and support for all members of this community,” she said in the press release.