Only On 7: Witness takes issue with DA's report on Andy Lopez

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Witness takes issue with DA's report on Andy Lopez
In story you'll only see on ABC7, a key witness is taking issue with the Sonoma County DA's report on the Andy Lopez shooting.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A key witness is taking issue with the report from the Sonoma County district attorney that said no charges will be filed against Erick Gelhaus, the deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez last year.

Fifty-two pages worth of details were released Monday by District Attorney Jill Ravitch. The report indicates that Andy Lopez had been smoking marijuana on the day he was shot and that he died from the third of seven bullets that hit him. The report went on to say that Deputy Erick Gelhaus continued firing even after the 13-year-old fell to the ground. The DA's decision that he acted in self-defense is controversial, to say the least.

By the standards of Andy Lopez protest rallies, we have seen bigger and louder than the one outside the Sonoma County Hall of Justice on Tuesday, which was meant to send a message to Ravitch.

"I feel that the justice system needs to do its work and the only way the justice system can do its work is by formally charging him for the charge of murder," said Latino activist Ramon Cairo. "And allow a jury of his peers to decide his culpability or not."

In explaining her decision, Ravitch cited many witnesses, including a man identified as John Doe #4 -- Ismael Mondragon. He was driving by, saw Andy with the replica AK-47, and warned him that a sheriff's car was coming.

Mondragon: "I tell him to throw that thing away because the police is behind."

Freedman: "Did he pay attention to you?"

Mondragon: "He don't pay no attention."

Moments later, Mr. Mondragon saw the sheriff's car pull up and open fire within seconds.

Freedman: "Do you trust the sheriff's department more now or less."

Mondragon: "Way less, way less."

In her press conference Monday, Ravitch described the shooting as a tragedy. She said she knew some would find fault with her decision that Deputy Gelhaus acted in self-defense.

"Given his training and experience, he believed honestly and reasonably that he was faced with a do or die dilemma," she said.

Essentially, she applied the same standards police would use in any deadly use of force situation. An opinion she bolstered with testimony from Mr. Mondragon, who told investigators that while he thought the mock AK-47 looked like a plastic toy, it could have been real.

On Tuesday, he told ABC7 News that in his opinion, Deputy Gelhaus should have known the difference.

"My reaction -- I don't think it was necessary to kill this guy," Mondragon said. "They have a good school and training so I don't know why they do that."

It's the vagary behind a district attorney's attempt to explain a decision one questioned loudly today and likely in the future.