Man feared for his life during encounter with Sonoma deputy

A man says he feared for his life during an encounter with a Sonoma deputy who's now embroiled in a shooting controversy.
November 3, 2013 5:37:57 PM PST
A North Bay man is speaking out. He says the Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy recently pulled a gun on him during a routine traffic stop.

"I did not do anything to justify ever having a weapon pulled on me," Jeff Westbrook said.

The Santa Rosa resident can't forget a day last August when he was driving to work on Highway 101 and was stopped for not using his blinker on a lane change. He says the Sonoma County deputy who made the stop seemed agitated when he approached Westbrook's BMW.

"When I looked back up there was a gun and, he's screaming, 'turn the vehicle off,'" Westbrook said. "At that point I put my hands up and said, 'sir, the car is off!'"

Westbrook says a gun was pulled on him again when was asked to get out of the car.

"I asked him, I said, 'are you okay, is there something I should be aware of, are you having some stress at this time?' And as I looked at him he grimaced and didn't really reply," Westbrook said.

The deputy who signed Westbrook's traffic ticket was Erick Gelhaus, the same man who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez last month, believing the air-soft rifle he was carrying was an assault weapon.

"I've been laboring ever since," Westbrook said. "What could I have done?"

Westbrook called the sheriff's department several times to complain about the traffic stop.

We could not reach Gelhuaus' lawyer Sunday. But in an earlier statement, attorney Terry Leoni told ABC7 News, "Based on Deputy Gellhaus' experience and training, he would never willy nilly pull out his gun. Only if there would be a need for it."

"Willy nilly," Westbrook said. "Well, that was a willy nill day that I saw."

Jeff Westbrook plans to file a formal complaint against Deputy Gelhaus soon.

Lopez's family plans to file a federal, civil rights lawsuit against Sonoma County and Deputy Gelhaus on Monday.

Attorneys claim the shooting violated Lopez's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment places limits on the authority of police.

The family's suit will also accuse the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department of having improper policies when it comes to using deadly force.

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