Police Abuse

Not Charged: Cop Who Killed 13 Year Old Because the Kid Had a Pellet Gun

What comes of a shoot-first approach to law enforcement.


kallerna / Wikimedia Commons

California prosecutors have decided not to pursue charges against Erick Gelhaus, the sheriff who fired eight shots at a 13-year-old boy he believed was armed, killing him on the spot. The kid, Andy Lopez, was actually carrying a mere pellet gun.

The Lopez parents are furious with the lack of criminal charges, according to the Associated Press:

The parents of Andy Lopez decried the decision, saying "it is impossible" to accept and they felt as though their son "had been killed again."

The teen's death last year heightened racial tensions in a mostly Latino neighborhood of Santa Rosa, a city of about 170,000 residents around 50 miles north of San Francisco. The shooting parked protests and criticism that the officer acted too quickly.

In fairness to the sheriff, the pellet gun apparently resembled a real gun:

Deputy Erick Gelhaus fired multiple rounds in response to what he believed was an imminent threat of death, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced at a news conference.

"While in the lawful performance of his duty, Deputy Gelhaus was faced with a highly unpredictable and rapidly evolving situation," Ravitch said. "He believed honestly and reasonably that he was faced with a do-or-die dilemma."

Ravitch displayed photographs of the pellet gun found next to Lopez and a real assault rifle to highlight similarities in appearance.

Gelhaus shot Lopez on Oct. 22 as the teen walked near his home with the pellet gun. The deputy told investigators he believed the gun was real and opened fire out of fear for his life.

Gelhaus was wrong, of course. And a kid who hadn't done anything remotely criminal died because of the sheriff's shoot-first approach to local law enforcement.

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  1. In happier news, when did wearing those thong-like bikinis go from being a thing only sluts did to being what like every hot girl does? I feel like that was a real turning point for society.

    1. Every hot girl? Excuse me while I check the Atlantic City train schedule.

      1. Atlantic City? You should get out more. Like out west.

          1. Or anywhere with a large Colombian population. The asses on those women...

    2. TIWTANFL?

  2. If a citizen made that mistake he'd be jail already and we'd all be getting a lecture on gun violence. Instead we get this.

  3. The police are legally entitled to shoot a kid holding a half-eaten poptart.

  4. Well, last week an article showed that a police officer can drive up to somebody on a motorcycle and shoot them in the back and receive no punishment thanks to a favorable court system. I wouldn't expect this to draw any punishment.

    I would love to know if there is a situation, barring massive amounts of public animus, lies and fraud by the police (i.e. Kathryn Johnston), where a police officer could ever be prosecuted for an on-duty shooting. And I'd like to know if there is ever a situation, no matter what happened, where a police officer could be charged/indicted for murder over an on-duty shooting.

    1. where a police officer could ever be prosecuted for an on-duty shooting.

      If a cop had tried to intervene in the beating of Kelly Thomas, and resorted to shooting a cop to save that worthless homeless person's worthless life, then they'd be prosecuted. Cops are professionals in the use of force, so they don't question one another. They always back each other up, otherwise the entire system would break down.

    2. It has happened before, although rare.


      I guess in that case there was quite a bit of public animus probably because she was a Sunday School Teacher.

      One day, perhaps, the rest of us will have the same rights and privileges as a white religious woman.

  5. FTA:

    At least one witness said he heard the deputy order Lopez to drop the pellet gun before shooting, Ravitch said.

    Kid was issued a command by one of the king's men which he failed to obey, so he was killed. The end.

    1. Did the kid speak English? No need to find out if he understood the command or was aggressive when you can kill with immunity.

      1. Cops regularly get away with beating deaf people for failure to obey. Being unable to understand a command is not an excuse.

  6. Sounds like the punk got what he deserved. Good shot, sherrif!

    /PoliceOne jackbooted thug

  7. Erick Gelhaus probably slept very well after he shot the kid.

    After he jerked off several times first.

    1. I doubt it, he has to live with this for the rest of his life.

      1. You would have to live with it Tim. This guy gets an entire department of people telling him he did the right thing and it's dangerous out there and it's us against them and you have a family to think about. It is the key to real atrocity. Dehumanize people and your conscious is clear no matter what you do to them.

        1. Dehumanize people and your conscious is clear no matter what you do to them

          This is how ten's of thousands can carry on with their lives after executing the orders of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.

        2. Euphemisms are always helpful. Euphemisms are the key, you detach the action from what happened in reality and replace it with a noble revised version.

          "In the line of duty..." (adds a bit of nobility to the murder of children)
          "Muscle memory..." ('it wasn't my fault, it was my training')
          "Denied a lawful order..." ('the little prole brought it on himself when he came down on the wrong side of the law, which is of course noble and good'.)

      2. Live with what? The kid didn't obey. That's a threat right there, because only bad guys fail to obey. Good citizens obey. On top of that he was armed, or at least appeared to be. It was totally justified. Nothing to live with at all, because had he not opened fire then he may have been killed. It was him or the kid.

        1. /more sarc
          and if it's anyone's fault, it's you dangerous people and your chronic dis-obeisance. Why do you make me hit you?

        2. I've known LEO's that have killed people, while actually being shot at, and hit.
          It still weighs on one's mind to have ended a life.
          Ask soldiers, who have killed in battle, it still has its effects.

          1. frankly I don't give a damn how any cop feels, they need to be quit being trained to shoot first and ask questions later. They need to quit being trained to confront everyone possible because "they might be a bad guy", there is nothing wrong with a person walking down the street with a rifle (at least there should not be in our country due to the 2nd amendment) yet these cops decided to engage him anyway, why?

            Cops need to quit being trained that its us (cops) vs them (anyone not wearing a uniform). Cops need to be trained to disengage from an unknown situation rather than meet the unknown with force. (like if someone is holding something that "looks like" a weapon cops should move to cover and confirm it is a weapon before shooting."

            If cops want to be treated like heroes they should act like them, it is not heroic to respond to every situation with only concern about trying to make it back home.

      3. I'm sure he's so distraught that he'll hang up his guns and take up baking; and he'll gladly forego any public pension for killing an innocent member of the public, devoting it instead to supporting the family and preventing future tragedies like this from happening.

        I'm sure of it.

      4. Tim, you would be bothered by it and so would I.

        But take a look at some of the Coptalk websites. The police forces are full of assholes who enjoy having unlimited power, including the right to kill.

        1. You're right.

    2. You have a very sick mind.

  8. In fairness to the sheriff, the pellet gun apparently resembled a real gun

    Well, Soave, in fairness to the principle that an ordinary citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty, go fuck yourself.

    1. Any link to that picture Reason? I'd like to see for myself.

        1. Realistic yes, but why would the guy assume a child was going to kill him? His trainee didn't shoot- at least he apparently didn't perceive a threat.

          1. Getting home safe after your shift is all that matters. That is why cops are held to a different standard than everyone else.

          2. His trainee didn't shoot

            Holy Shit! *Two* armed and trained adults engaged this unarmed kid and (one) managed to bungle it so bad as to kill him?

            I'm pretty sure two armed men should be able to take down a bear carrying an actual AK-47 in fewer than 8 shots.

            Shock and awe!

          3. His trainee, who had 11 years prior LEO experience, said he didn't fire because the position of their vehicle interfered with his ability to do so.

  9. This case is why we need more people openly carrying rifles.

    So the cops stop feeling threatened when a firearm is in the somewhat near vicinity of them.

    Some of you criticized the Texas idiots. And maybe rightly so, as they seemed to have crossed the line from carrying to brandishing. But open carry needs to happen way more often.

  10. Walking While Hispanic is the new Driving While Black.

    So I'm sure the Reverend [instert name here] will be out hoodie-protesting this injustice ad nauseum now, right? Cause, NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE! Right?


  11. Lol at look different than real gun...I swear these clowns would be amusing but for the fact they can/will kill you.

  12. Hispanic man shoots black kid: WHITE RACISM!!

    White man cop shoots Hispanic kid: crickets

    1. Well Hispanics are almost white, and they're the most closely related to whites of all 'ethnic minorities'. So if we conclude that Hispanics are worth 1/3rd of a white person, then they have at least 1/3rd of the same white guilt to atone for.

  13. You make a mistake: MANIAC! NEGLIGENCE!
    Cop makes a mistake: Tragedy. Blame victim.

  14. fired multiple rounds in response to what he believed was an imminent threat of death

    See, for us serfs, it has to be a reasonable belief. Apparently not for cops, though.

    1. I noted the 'eight shots', all of which apparently hit the kid.

      Either the cop is some sort of rapid-fire genius or he was enjoying the moment.

  15. People are so funny, sometimes. Thinking a police officer is subject to the same laws as civilians is so last century.

  16. "He believed honestly and reasonably that he was faced with a do-or-die dilemma."

    I don't doubt the "honestly" but I do doubt the "reasonably." What actions did the kid take that were threatening to the cop? Wasn't this the case where he had his back turned, the copy said something and then the kid turned to look at the cop, at which point the cop opened fire?

    I guess when you define "reasonable" as whatever a cop does in the line of duty, then this sort of thing is "reasonable." But if any "civilian" did this, they'd be facing a long prison sentence.

    1. What actions did the kid take that were threatening to the cop?

      He failed to obey. Anyone who fails to obey is a threat. If they are armed and fail to obey, they are a deadly threat. The kid failed to obey and appeared to be armed, thus he was a deadly threat.

      1. Silly me. All this time I thought we lived in a free country.

        I have had some very pleasant/positive interactions with cops. I've had some not so pleasant ones. The problem is the bad cops don't face negative consequences, are never fired, and thus have no incentive to behave. I'd think good cops would be less likely to stay on the force in that environment. The only cause for optimism is that there's more and more backlash these days, even on the right.

        1. There are no good cops. Good cops would stop bad cops, yet no one stops bad cops. Thus there are no good cops.

          1. There is presently no good system that favors good cops and weeds out bad cops. If only there was some sort of mechanism whereby producers of services would be incentivized to keep their costs low while satisfying consumer demand better than anyone else. Someone should invent that.

            1. I'd settle for abolishing public sector unions.

            2. Someone should invent that.

              That implies some desire to achieve an optimal system. I'd be happy with any movement towards a less dysfunctional one.

              1. Gaddafi's Libya was much less dysfunctional than Mugabe's Zimbabwe, but a Zimbabwewan (San Deagans?) who wants to use Libya as a model of of good governance is setting his sights a little low.

          2. Good cops would stop bad cops, yet no one stops bad cops. Thus there are no good cops.

            Seems like I heard about a cop who stood up to his police force recently... I don't recall it ending well.

            1. that was a TJ Hooker episode.

    2. Imagine, if you will, that the kid had been shot by a CCW licensee.

      Does anyone believe for one instant that the shooter wouldn't be in jail right now?

      So, if it wouldn't be reasonable for a "civilian" to fear for his life, why is it reasonable for a cop to fear for his life?

      1. Civilians can't initiate violence against anyone who fails to obey. Cops can.

        1. Oh, sure. Its just that they still use the language of self-defense. I don't think they should get away with it.

          If they have the right to kill people for failure to obey or causing what a reasonable person would regard as mild unease, then let's hear them say it.

          1. You're looking at this entirely the wrong way Mr Monocle. The cops wear special costumes that allow them to circumvent their moral obligations to other humans.

            1. on that point, they should have bright pink features so we know they're real cops.

              1. Cops should be allowed to keep all their murdering and maiming privileges, as long as their uniform includes a floppy dildo hanging from their forehead. That'd be worth it, fewer cops I'd expect.

      2. Imagine, if you will, that the kid had been shot by a CCW licensee.

        Even CCW falsely focuses on the means.

        Imagine if the kid had been hit by a scared motorist or jumped and beaten by a 'vigilant' citizen.

        Privileges to drive and see sunlight... revoked.

      3. There was a famous case, not too long ago, of a shooting by a CCW licensee, who wasn't, even confronted with a gun, let alone a toy that looked like the real thing, and most didn't think actual charges and a trial were warranted.
        It was only because of pressure by certain groups that George Zimmerman was charged, months later, instead of accepting that, even civilians, are entitled to defend themselves.

    3. He 'honestly' believed his life was in danger after consulting with his PBA attorney.

  17. This is what happens when we as a society allow moral exemptions for certain groups. Moral obligations not to violate the life, liberty and property of others either applies to everyone equally or no one at all. Special costumes, badges and electoral support do not exempt anyone from the basics of right and wrong.

    1. In a just society, laws apply equally to everyone. We do not live in a just society.

      1. Though as I am often told, if the laws against theft, extortion and murder truly applied to everyone equally, it'd be a Mad Max and/or the Thunderdome type of world.

  18. "He believed honestly and reasonably that he was faced with a do-or-die dilemma."

    and he was 100% wrong. even if legally he isn't culpable, he fucked up horribly and displayed bad judgement, because he was wrong. of course he gets to keep his government job. he's a fuckup.

    1. Here's the real problem:

      "Reasonable" is an objective standard, as in, what would most people agree with.

      Its very hard to be 100% wrong and be reasonable.

      1. It's reasonable to argue that most people have their head up their ass about almost everything they think they know. A particle physicist may fancy himself a part-time basket weaver, but in reality his baskets are garbage.

        A damn good auto mechanic, chances are, has his head is up his ass about philosophy and morality, not for simply being ignorant, but for promoting his ignorant opinion as valid.

  19. There are no good cops. Good cops would stop bad cops, yet no one stops bad cops. Thus there are no good cops.


    I'd love to see a story about "good" cops banding together and refusing to work with psychos; even arresting them and actively aiding misconduct investigations. I'll probably die waiting.

    1. I'd love to see a story about "good" cops banding together and refusing to work with psychos; even arresting them and actively aiding misconduct investigations.

      "This just in. A band of rogue police officers have been taken into custody for rampant obstruction of justice, insubordination, and interfering with other officers. They have been suspended without pay, pending termination. The police union has refused to provide legal council, siting the severity of the allegations, and it is unclear if a public defender has been assigned. The prosecuting attorney says he will not rest until they are all sent to prison."

      1. The suspension without pay as well as ostracism from the police officer's mafia, is not warranted when you merely murder children, but is reserved for those offenses of a most heinous nature; offending the dignity of other police officers, especially those of higher rank.

        1. You got it!

        2. see Chris Dorner.

  20. Everytime I see a story about something like this, I wonder if there will be a big outcry to change law enforcement. But then I see the comments on the FaceDerp about this article and it's like a one-two nutpunch.

  21. Here's the problem: Cops are trained to view any firearm not under the control of another cop as a threat. In a nation with 300 million legally owned firearms, and an inherent right of firearms ownership, this is approach to training is virtually guaranteed to cause the death of innocent citizens. Cops are taught that the sight of a gun, or even the word "Gun!" are cues for a massive adrenaline dump and going on the offensive. They are trained to fear armed citizens, and until this training changes, they'll keep shooting innocent citizens.

    1. The public is anyone except any individuals with whom they come into contact. So if they see an armed person then they must go on the offensive. To protect the public.

  22. I wonder, if I a regular peasant, was walking down the street with my Glock and shot some kid on the basis that I thought he had a gun and defied my orders...would I be charged with murder or get paid time-off work? Even if the kid did have an actual gun, I'd probably still be charged. Fuck the state.

    1. But if he's a black kid in a hoodie who only went to the store for Skittles and ice tea, it's OK.

      1. Ah, Saint Skittles: the gun grabbers version of Godwin's law.

        1. Saint Skittles! lol thank you.

  23. It wasn't even a pellet gun. It was a toy. Update your picture.

    1. Her's your update - an actual picture of the gun.
      See if you can tell the real one from the "toy" without reading the caption.

  24. Let's see, teenagers randomly go on shooting sprees. So a teenager with a life like rifle is shot.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't. These are the fruits of a generation submitting to the theories of one man, Freud. Hate the paternal figure, but make impossible demands.

  25. A Wrongful Death claim would seem to be in order.

  26. No charges. This is my shocked face.

  27. If the boy didn't point the pellet gun at the thug, er, cop, then how could he be in fear of his life? Many cops are cowards, hiding behind their uniform, their badge, and their gun. Maybe it's because we read about so many innocent, or non-violent people being beaten and killed by cops--cops who are never charge and never say sorry--that they now realize that not many people like them, that people see them as the threat they are.

  28. Why aren't police treated like citizens when they harm someone else? The double standard is apalling.

  29. Cops at this point are like dogs. No matter what they're doing, because they're on the side of the law, they think they're the good guy. And since the profession self-selects, they get people who are enthusiastic to use violence, and so they get violent quick, and once they get worked up it only serves to work them up even more. Like dogs who start barking for no reason and just get crazier and crazier even though there's no reasonable threat

    My brother says, "What do you expect? They need to be like that, they're cops." But I could easily see scores of people who could be capable of being violent when necessary, but who have some fucking sense of morality guiding them first. I mean, the cops I see on those shows fucking moralize even to the people they arrest for pot. Pot? Fucking pot? A drug even milder that alcohol? How weak minded do you have to be that you have to tell yourself that every single law you enforce is good to be able to live with yourself doing that job. I could easily be a cop and arrest people for pot and such but still understand it's a stupid outdated law. It's an outdated law, but I'd still have to do my job. That situation would come up in even the most moral and just societies. Better you should admit the law is stupid, than take the weak-minded approach and tell yourself the law is good. At least then you don't end up going overboard because then you think EVER law is good and everything you do is good.

  30. Debate all you want. The fact is the that police in our country have become thugs and killers. It seems they can not protect citizens, but have no trouble killing them.

    I think these cops are the imminent danger.

  31. I'd like to see the video... can't take anyone's word.... liars ruined that for me.

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