SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A Northern California prosecutor released a 51-page synopsis of a report into the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a sheriff's deputy who mistook the pellet gun the teen was carrying for an assault weapon.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch decided not to charge Deputy Erick Gelhaus, concluding he feared for his life when he opened fire on Andy Lopez on Oct. 22.
Here are some key aspects of the synopsis:
— A chief deputy district attorney with 23 years of experience as a prosecutor led the investigation. The prosecutor got assistance from a district attorney's investigator with 33 years of experience. They reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents, interviewed 200 witnesses and listened to 196 minutes of dispatch recordings and other conversations.
— Gelhaus, a 23-year veteran of the department, was serving as a training officer on the day of the shooting. He served for nearly 20 years in the U.S. Army on active duty, in the reserves and for the National Guard. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant. Gelhaus was training Deputy Michael Schemmel, who previously worked for the Marin County Sheriff's Department. They were in Lopez's neighborhood, which has been plagued with gang violence, for "proactive" training.
— The report concludes that Gelhaus opened fire because Lopez turned toward the officers and began raising the pellet gun. Witnesses reported hearing Gelhaus order the boy to drop the gun twice. Gelhaus also immediately declared a need to recover the rifle, which he believed still to be an assault weapon immediately after the shooting. Schemmel had not opened fire.
— The day after Lopez's death, police were called to his middle school. The friend who loaned Lopez the pellet gun was crying hysterically and blaming himself for the boy's death because an orange tip at the end of the barrel indicating it was a toy had broken off. An officer reportedly helped calm the boy.