SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a lawsuit against a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa. The county had asked for immunity for the officer. This now allows the parents of the boy to continue with their wrongful-death law suit.
On October 22, 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was carrying a plastic pellet gun that looked like a AK-47. Sheriff Deputy Erick Gelhaus yelled for Lopez to drop the gun which he mistook for a real weapon. Gelhaus told investigators the boy turned around, then raised-but did not point the barrel of the gun in his direction. The deputy fired eight shots.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's office was hoping the high court would support their argument that officers don't need to wait for a gun to be actually pointed at them before responding with deadly force to protect themselves and the public.
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"You're going to put people in position of hesitation and when you have the hesitation and they are thinking about what they can do, then it's too late," said Assistant Sheriff Clint Shubel with the Sonoma County Sheriff Office.
In many cases law enforcement officers are protected under the so-called qualified immunity ruling because the use of force isn't clearly established.
"My experience with these kinds of cases is that law enforcement's position is that they are always right and they should always be immune from liability," said Izaak Schwaiger, a civil rights attorney.
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Andy's parents have a federal law-suit against the Sheriff's Department. Because the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the family can now proceed with that lawsuit as instructed by the Ninth Circuit Court.
Noah Blechman, the attorney representing Sonoma County said, "The County continues to evaluate all options to move the case toward a final resolution."
The county has two options: settle with the family or have a jury decide.
Supreme Court refuses to review ruling, allows trial in Andy Lopez shooting in Santa Rosa
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