The death of Andy Lopez continues to outrage people across the nation after the 13-year-old was shot and killed on Oct. 22 when a sheriff’s deputy mistook his toy AK-47 for an actual assault rifle. Numerous marches, rallies and protests have been held in memory of the junior high school student whose funeral was held on Tuesday.
On the heels of the FBI announcing an independent investigation into the shooting, officials released the name of the Sonoma County, Calif., sheriff's deputy who fatally shot Lopez. Below are seven facts about 48-year-old Erick Gelhaus and his role in the incident that has shaken the residents of Santa Rose, California.
1. He Has Broad Knowledge And Experience With Guns
Gelhaus has contributed frequently to law enforcement magazines and online forums, stressing gun safety, reports the San Francisco Gate. He is a field training officer for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, training new recruits as well as instructing his colleagues on how to shoot at the department gun range. He also describes himself as an avid hunter on his social media profiles.
2. He Has Not Fired At A Suspect In More Than 20 Years
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According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Gelhaus has not fired upon a suspect in 24 years with the agency. He received the Medal of Valor in 2004 after he rescued people from a burning car.
3. He Was Training A New Deputy The Day Of The Shooting
Santa Rosa police officials say that the shooting occurred when Gelhaus and a recently hired deputy he was training pulled up behind Lopez. The pair witnessed the teen walking close to his house with the pellet gun the officers believed was an assault rifle.
4. He Shot Andy Lopez Eight Times
Gelhaus stepped out of his vehicle and ordered Lopez to drop the gun. When the teen did not drop the weapon and turned facing the deputies, officials says that out of fear for his life, Gelhaus fired eight times at Lopez.
5. He Serve In Iraq
According to online profiles, Gelhaus served as an infantry squad leader in Iraq in 2005. The Gate also reports that records show that he served in the Army from 1983 to 1987, the Army Reserve from 1987 to 1995 and the Army National Guard of California from 2003 to 2010.
6. His Colleagues Have Praised His Work As An Officer
Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas described Gelhaus as a “respected and solid employee.” And he added that Gelhaus' name was withheld by the office due to concerns about his safety and threats he received before his name was released.
7. He Is On Leave From His Duties As A Sheriff's Deputy
Gelhaus and a second deputy are currently on paid administrative leave as the Santa Rosa and Petaluma police as well as the Sonoma County district attorney's office complete their investigations of the shooting.