California deputy may face jury in civil suit for killing of teen with toy gun
By Brian Seay
A three-judge panel signaled on Wednesday that a California deputy who shot and killed a teen holding a toy rifle should stand trial.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges indicated a jury would have to decide whether Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus was justified in killing 13-year-old Andy Lopez nearly four years ago.
Lopez was walking along a road in Santa Rosa, California on Oct. 22, 2013, holding a toy gun that looked like an AK-47. The orange tip of the replica — which signifies it’s a toy — was missing, leading Gelhaus to believe the gun was real. The deputies pulled up behind Lopez, and, without announcing they were officers, they ordered him to “Drop the gun!” Three seconds later, Gelhaus opened fire, shooting at the teen seven times. Lopez died at the scene.
Gelhaus’ lawyers argue that as the teenager turned to face the deputies, he was starting to raise the barrel of the toy rifle, leading Gelhaus to perceive him as a threat. Lawyers for Lopez’s family say the toy gun was still pointing at the ground as the teen turned around. Noah Blechman, an attorney for Gelhaus, faced questions Wednesday from the judges about that point.