Santa Rosa and Petaluma police Wednesday delivered their final report on the fatal October shooting of Andy Lopez to District Attorney Jill Ravitch, but it may be many months before she decides whether to press any charges against the sheriff's deputy who shot and killed the 13-year-old boy.
“I recognize the community would like me to complete my review and make a decision in short order, however it's essential it be done in a thorough and complete fashion ... I have no intention of delaying this review but I will not be committed to a specific date for completion,” Ravitch said after receiving the report.
Customarily, the D.A. reviews shootings involving an officer within 90 days of receiving the investigative report, but it is not a legal requirement that she do so.
Neither Ravitch nor Santa Rosa police, who led the investigation, would discuss the contents of the report or what, if any, recommendations investigators made about filing charges against Deputy Erick Gelhaus.
Gelhaus shot Lopez, a Santa Rosa eighth-grader, Oct. 22 as the youth was walking up Moorland Avenue carrying an airsoft-style BB gun designed to resemble an assault rifle. Gelhaus encountered the boy while riding in a patrol car being driven by another deputy. He reportedly mistook it for a real weapon and opened fire after yelling at Lopez to drop the gun. He told investigators Lopez was turning toward him and he felt threatened by the manner in which he was raising the BB gun.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has not revealed the name of the second deputy involved in the shooting, citing his potential role as a “witness” in the incident. Santa Rosa police investigating the shooting have said the second deputy, who was still behind the wheel of the patrol car when Lopez was shot, was on a training assignment with Gelhaus.
The shooting sparked a wave of outrage and a series of protests that have continued into the new year. Protesters have called for Gelhaus to face charges, saying he did not give the youth proper notice of his presence or enough time, mere seconds, to respond. They have also called for broader change, including greater investment in the heavily Latino neighborhood where Lopez lives and an overhaul of how law enforcement agencies are trained and monitored.