The Justification of Andy Lopez’s Tragic Death
On October 22, 2013, Andy Lopez, a young teenager at the age of thirteen years old, was shot and killed by a Sonoma County deputy named Erik Gelhaus. The community has taken sides either criticizing the officers actions, or supporting them. Whether the arguments are based on race or police abuse of power, we can clearly see step by step why officer Gelhaus did what he did from the first time he spotted Lopez, when he fired the shots, and by what actions he took after the fatal shootings. When looking at the circumstance as a whole, one can understand that Gelhaus's actions were justified and was done only to protect the community.
At around 3:14 pm. Santa Rosa Police officer Erick Gelhaus and his partner, a trainee, were patrolling Moorland Avenue located just before the outskirts of Santa Rosa. Gelhaus who was sitting in the passenger side of the police vehicle, then spotted an individual (now known to be Andy Lopez) with his back facing towards them walking down the street holding what appeared to be an AK-47 assault rifle (Johnson). The trainee officer then stopped the vehicle just a mere 20 to 30 feet away, allowing for Gelhaus to quickly step out and order Lopez to drop the weapon (Chea). Many community members argue that the trainee officer should have gone out of the police vehicle with Gelhaus if Lopez was indeed a threat to the community. The trainee officer however did not exit the vehicle since “at that point Deputy Gelhaus had already engaged the subject, with the commands and with the weapon. The threat was essentially over” (Johnson). This explains why the trainee officer remained in the police vehicle during the confrontation.
The Santa Rosa officers twice ordered Lopez to drop his weapon. Although Lopez's back was turned, the police vehicle stopped about 25 feet away from him, and twice ordered Lopez to drop his weapon. Eyewitnesses confirm that Lopez's jacket hood was down while also having no ear buds of any kind in his ears (Johnson). The evidence suggests that Lopez was aware of Gelhaus's orders to drop his weapon. Gelhaus is no stranger to drawing his firearm while on duty. In 1995, nineteen years before the shooting of Lopez, Gelhaus drew his firearm upon a woman and her young child after she had called Santa Rosa Police for help with a domestic dispute. He has also been known to “recklessly draw his firearm and to use excessive force” as said by another family that filed suit based on Gelhaus drawing his weapon on motorcyclist Jeffrey Westbrook (Lee). This is just two months before Gelhaus fired his first shot while on duty, resulting in the death of Andy Lopez. According to official investigators, the messages that were sent to the dispatchers, the officers reported both the first sightings of Lopez and the discharge of Gelhaus's firearm. All of the reports occurred during a time span of just ten seconds (Associated). This however does not mean that the...