A sheriff's deputy who gunned down a 13-year-old carrying a BB gun in Northern California last year won't face criminal charges, but still has a civil suit coming down the pike, the Press Democrat reports. Deputy Erick Gelhaus "fired his weapon in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death," said Sonoma County DA Jill Ravitch of Andy Lopez's death. "As such, he was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others." The finding followed a five-month investigation and protests around California, including a "National Day of Action for Andy Lopez" organized by a statewide group opposing police brutality, CBS San Francisco reports.
Andy was walking through rural Sonoma County last October, holding a BB gun resembling an AK-47, when deputies on patrol saw him and told him to drop the weapon. Ten seconds later, Gelhaus had put seven bullets in the boy. "The family and my office are greatly disappointed with the decision," said the Lopez family's attorney. "If there was ever a case where charges were warranted, it was this one." But Ravitch said her office pored over more than 1,000 pages of reports and spoke to numerous experts to consider "every interpretation of the facts." Now the Lopez family's civil suit, held up by the criminal probe, will "have to run through the legal process," an official said. (Gelhaus, a firearms expert and instructor, had never fired on a suspect before.)