Funeral held for teenager, 13, who was shot dead by police while carrying toy rifle as hundreds gather to protest his death
- Erick Gelhaus, 48, shot dead Andy Lopez last week
- Gelhaus has received death threats after the incident that sparked outrage
- The FBI is investigating the fatal shooting of the 13-year-old in Santa Rosa,
- Lopez was spotted carrying a toy gun by cops in Sonoma County
- Ordered him to drop his weapon and opened fire in less than 10 seconds
- Witness: Deputies continued to shoot at body even after he had fallen
PUBLISHED: 12:08 EST, 30 October 2013 | UPDATED: 14:51 EST, 30 October 2013
A funeral has been held for the 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by police last week in California while carrying a toy rifle.
Erick Gelhaus, 48, a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy mistook Andy Lopez’s fake AK-47 for a real rifle before he fatally shot the teen last week just outside Santa Rosa, California
Yesterday hundreds of demonstrators marched to protest the fatal shooting which has sparked community outrage and an FBI investigation.
Officers monitored from rooftops and others wearing helmets stood guard at barricades while protesters rallied outside the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Rosa.
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Rev Jose R Gonzlez, center, blesses the coffin during Tuesday’s funeral
The protesters, including middle- and high-school-age students and members of the Occupy Oakland movement, assembled in downtown Santa Rosa before marching through streets with signs and hooded sweatshirts bearing photos of the boy.
- Deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old carrying toy rifle was gun enthusiast who preached about the need to turn on the ‘mean gene’ when in ‘the kill zone’
- Hundreds of mourners pay last respects to teen shot by police as it emerges they only shouted one warning at him before opening fire and killing him
‘Andy Lopez did not have to die,’ they chanted during the nearly three-hour, peaceful demonstration.
No arrests were made.
The demonstration came on the same day mourners bid farewell to Lopez at his funeral.
The service was open to the public, and his sobbing parents were surrounded by dozens of people as they clung to a wooden coffin.
Lopez, who was shot and killed October 22 by Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a firearms instructor who authorities said mistook a pellet gun carried by Lopez for an assault rifle.
Protests: Vanessa Lopez marches towards the Sonoma County Sheriff’s building along Mendocino Avenue during a protest over the death of Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa last week
Investigators say the hoodie-wearing teen didn’t comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward deputies while raising the barrel when he was shot multiple times.
The incident remained under investigation by the FBI, Sonoma County prosecutors and Santa Rosa police.
Victor Manieri, 15, a freshman at Elsie Allen High School, left school early to join the march. He said he knew Andy and wanted to show support for his family.
‘I disagree with what that cop did that day,’ Manieri said. ‘There are other methods such as using a Taser that would paralyze him, not take away his life.’
Mitzi Reyes, 16, a junior at Elsie Allen, marched with her mother and two younger brothers. They also knew Andy and his family.
‘I’m here today because I want to get justice not only for Andy but for other people that have died for no reason,’ she said.
The shooting has generated several protests in Santa Rosa, located about 50 miles northwest of San Francisco. On Sunday, more than 1,000 people turned out for a service to remember Lopez.
Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas said Gelhaus, 48, has been a Sonoma County firearms instructor and rangemaster for 19 years and has trained his law enforcement colleagues in the use of force.
He is one of 26 such instructors for the county.
Gelhaus also teaches pistol, carbine, shotgun and rifle lessons for Gunsite, a private company in Arizona, according to the company’s website.
The deputy, who has received death threats after the incident that sparked outrage in the California community, has broad experience with guns and regularly contributed to law enforcement magazines and online forums, warning his comrades that they may be required to use lethal force to stay safe.
According to his online profiles, Gelhaus served as an infantry squad leader in Iraq and is an avid hunter in North America as well as Africa.
However, officials told Sfgate.com the deputy has not fired at a suspect in 24 years with the department, where he serves as a field training officer for new recruits and trains colleagues to shoot at the department’s gun range.
But in a 2008 article for monthly policing and gun rights magazine, S.W.A.T., he gave other officers advice on what to do if the possibility arises.
‘Today is the day you may need to kill someone in order to go home,’ he wrote. ‘If you cannot turn on the ‘mean gene’ for yourself, who will? If you find yourself in an ambush, in the kill zone, you need to turn on that mean gene.’
He went on: ‘Taking some kind of action – any kind of action – is critical. If you shut down (physically, psychologically, or both) and stay in the kill zone, bad things will happen to you. You must take some kind of action.’
Tears: Mourners who lined up to pay their last respects to Andy Lopez could not contain their emotions yesterday during his memorial
Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas described his colleague as a ‘respected and solid employee’ who recieved the sheriff’s medal of valor in 2004 for rescuing people from a burning car.
The deputy, who served in Iraq in 2005, is on paid leave pending the investigation and his attorney declined to comment to the newspaper website.
The man’s identity was revealed just hours after two witnesses claimed he only shouted at Lopez one time to drop his weapon before firing.
Lopez was shot seven times while he was standing in a car lot last week because police thought his pellet gun was an assault rifle.
More than a thousand people turned out for a memorial service for the teen on Sunday wearing white at the request of his mother.
The revelation the teen was only given one warning before being shot will likely be used as part of an FBI investigation.
It was also recently revealed that only 10 seconds had passed between the moment the deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person when Gelhaus opened fire.
Maria Marquez and Juana Rojas said they were behind the patrol car at a stop sign when they saw the deputies drive over to the lot to where the teen was standing.
The women said they heard the deputies shout, ‘Drop the gun’ just once, before opening their car doors and firing at Lopez without giving him a chance to act, KGO-TV reported.
The shooting is being investigated by the FBI and on Friday Sheriff Steve Freitas said in a statement that he will cooperate fully with federal investigators and welcomes their participation in the probe of Lopez’s killing on Tuesday afternoon.
The shooting has generated numerous protests and marches in the suburban town of Santa Rosa, with many residents questioning the deputy’s decision to fire on the youth.
A timeline released on Thursday by the Santa Rosa police shows that only 10 seconds passed from the moment the sheriff’s deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired.
FBI spokesman Paul Lee said he did not know why his agency decided to get involved or whether local authorities had requested its help.
City police and the Sonoma County district attorney’s office are also investigating.
More than 100 angry middle and high school students walked to City Hall on Friday, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.
Hundreds of local residents also marched on Wednesday night to remember the popular teen and protest at the senseless shooting.
They chanted ‘We need justice’ as they questioned how the deputies could mistake a pellet gun for an assault rifle.
Neighbor Ethan Oliver, left, witnessed the shooting and claims police continued to shoot at the body of Andy Lopez, right, even after he had fallen to the ground
Earlier, Duenas told the Press Democrat that the deputy who shot the teen was a 24-year veteran and his partner, who did not fire his weapon, was a new hire.
Santa Rosa police Lieutenant Paul Henry told the newspaper the deputy who opened fire later told investigators he believed his life as well his partner’s was in jeopardy.
The deputy, who was later identified as Gelhaus, said the teen didn’t comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward the deputies while raising the barrel.
‘The deputy’s mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot,’ Henry said at a Wednesday news conference.
Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said officers are typically justified in the use of deadly force when they sincerely believe lives are at stake.
If the teen was raising the barrel of the gun toward officers, they had little choice about firing, Alpert said.
‘If it’s a pink bubble gum gun and an obvious fake to most, then there is no reason to shoot,’ he said. ‘But if the gun looks real the barrel is being pointed at you … it’s unfortunate, but a perceived threat trumps age and the officers have to protect themselves.’
The Santa Rosa Police Department said two deputies in a squad car encountered the hoodie-wearing Lopez just after 3:14 p.m.
Witnesses say at least one of the deputies took cover behind an open front door of the cruiser, and one yelled twice ‘drop the gun.’
Ten seconds after their initial report to dispatch, one of the officers called in ‘shot have been fired.’
Sixteen seconds later, the deputies were calling for medical help. Cruz was later pronounced dead at the scene.
The Sonoma County coroner said he found seven ‘apparent entry wounds,’ two of them fatal
Ethan Oliver, who lives across the street, told KTVU.com that the deputies continued to shoot at the boy, even after he had fallen to the ground.
Oliver said he went outside after hearing two gun shots and by that time Lopez was already on the ground. ‘Then the cops went at it again and unloaded like six to seven shots,’ he said.
When asked if he meant that the deputy shot Lopez while he was on the ground, Oliver said, ‘Yeah. Exactly what I saw.’
Authorities haven’t responded to his claims, but it raises the possibility that Lopez was still alive when he hit the ground after the first two shots were fired.
During a news conference on Wednesday authorities displayed a real assault weapon and the pellet gun – which resembled an AK-47 with a black magazine and brown butt – to demonstrate how difficult it is to tell them apart.
Federal law requires replica guns to have an orange tip, but Lopez’s toy rifle didn’t have one.
Police also revealed that Lopez had his back to the deputies, so they didn’t realize he was so young. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and shorts.
They claim Lopez was about 20 to 30 feet from them when he turned with the barrel of the gun pointing toward them and they opened fire because they feared for their lives.
‘The deputy then fired several rounds from his service weapon at the subject,’ said Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry, ‘striking him at least one time. The subject immediately fell to the ground.’
The Lopez family are devastated by the loss of their son, his grief-stricken mom Sujey Annel Cruz Cazarez has demanded to know why he was killed