Cop Who Shot Kid With Toy Gun Was Firearms Expert

Erick Gelhaus identified as sheriff's deputy that fired
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2013 8:28 AM CDT
Cop Who Shot Kid With Toy Gun Was Firearms Expert
These photos provided by the family via The Press Democrat and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department show 13-year-old Andy Lopez and the replica assault rifle he was holding when he was killed.   (AP Photo/Family via The Press Democrat, Sonoma County Sheriff's Department)

Another detail in the case of the 13-year-old boy who was shot when police officers spotted him holding a plastic BB gun: The sheriff's deputy who shot Andy Lopez Cruz is a gun expert and firearms instructor, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Erick Gelhaus hunts; he's been to war; he teaches fellow officers at the department's gun range and also teaches gun classes for the general public; he's had special firearms training and is a "range master." In law enforcement magazines and on online forums, he frequently discusses guns and promotes officer safety.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat calls Gelhaus' stance on police use of force as "aggressive," based on those writings, but in his 24 years with the sheriff's office he never before fired on a suspect (he did accidentally shoot himself in the leg while holstering a gun in 1995). The Sonoma County assistant sheriff calls Gelhaus a "respected and solid employee." He's currently on paid administrative leave as police, the district attorney's office, and the FBI investigate the incident. A critical detail: Federal law requires that toy guns have an orange tip, and this one did not. Demonstrators are marching to the sheriff's department today, then holding a rally there, to protest the incident, Fox News reports. (Read more Andy Lopez stories.)

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