Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (d. 2013-10-22; Santa Rosa) [link]
2014-06 "Sonoma County Gazette" [www.sonomacountygazette.com]:
Jesus Vasquez, Sociology student at Sonoma State University -
Erick Gelhaus shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California, on October 22, 2013. Andy was shot while he carried an airsoft gun while he was walking to his friend’s house.
Gelhaus and his unnamed partner got out of the car and Gelhaus yelled a still unknown command, forcing Andy to turn around. It only took about three seconds for Gelhaus to open fire, while his unnamed partner did not shoot. Andy was shot seven times and was pronounced dead at the scene. Gelhaus violated Andy’s fourth amendment, used excessive force and had a history of reckless acts. Andy’s death could have been prevented if Gelhaus would not have used unconstitutional practices. Gelhaus and his partner approached Andy from behind and when they yelled the command forced Andy to turn around. Gelhaus has been an instructor for a number of gun-training centers.
Including the Arizona based Gunsite Academy, a business that offers weapons training to law enforcement as well as citizens of the U.S. His LinkedIn page cites that he worked for Aimpoint, a company that develops sighting technology for firearms. On his LinkedIn account he is endorsed as a firearms expert and if he had taken a few more seconds to articulate the situation he would have noticed Andy was a thirteen-year-old boy and that the gun was a toy. Instead he decided to shoot Andy and then justify it by saying he feared for his life.
Tara Kostan, Sociology student at Sonoma State University -
Ever since the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, there has been uproar in the Santa Rosa community regarding oversight of police behavior. Deputy Gelhaus shot and killed eighth grader, Andy Lopez, after mistaking his toy BB gun for an AK-47 assault rifle on October 22nd. Over the past few months, there have been various protests, rallies and marches occurring in the Santa Rosa community, organized by the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, which has continuously brought up the demand that our community must have formal civilian oversight for local law enforcement.
After a young boy’s life was cut short by a deputy of the Sonoma County Sherriff’s Department, there has been concern in restoring the public’s confidence in local law enforcement agencies. There is currently an existing task force, which has been appointed by district attorney, Jill Ravitch to consider civilian oversight. However in order to restore the public’s trust with the Sonoma County law enforcement, the task force must be independent of Sonoma County supervisors. The task force needs consist of concerned civilians of Sonoma County who will independently investigate police behavior and review the use of deadly force.
It is important to assess the procedures used to recruit members of an independent civilian’s review board, and also to assess how members will be trained. The concerned citizens, who are interested in becoming a part of this task force, must do this by examining successful civilian review board models of communities outside the Sonoma County area.
The capabilities of the civilian’s review board must involve having authority to call witnesses, (including members of the law enforcement to testify about what happened) and produce independent reports that make recommendations to the board of supervisors and city council surrounding the county.
Our socio-political system has failed to provide justice for Andy Lopez and his grieving family. Community action is needed in order to avoid another tragedy like this occurring in Sonoma County again.