New Allegations Added in Teen Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The family of a California teenager who was killed in October by a sheriff’s deputy has amended its lawsuit against the deputy and the county with new allegations.

The Union-Tribune San Diego reports that Rodrigo and Sujey Lopez, the parents of the slain teen, filed documents with the United States District Court in San Francisco alleging that the deputy who shot their son has a history of using excessive force.

On Oct. 22, 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was walking home, carrying an Airsoft BB gun, a popular toy weapon used in games that’s designed to resemble an assault rifle. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Sonoma County Sherriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus encountered the boy and ordered him to drop the gun. Gelhaus claimed that Lopez turned and raised the barrel in his direction, at which point the deputy opened fire.

Lopez was shot seven times. Gelhaus told investigators he thought the boy was armed with an AK-47 and that he feared for his life.

In the amended lawsuit, Lopez’s parents allege that the Sheriff’s Office is aware of 28-year veteran Gelhaus’s record of using excessive force. Several incidents are cited in the amended lawsuit such as a case where the deputy is accused of pulling his gun on a man during a routine traffic stop and drawing his weapon on a woman and child during a neighborhood dispute.

Additionally, reports the Press Democrat, Gelhaus is accused in the lawsuit of having “racist and extremist tendencies and beliefs” — the deputy is associated with the founder of a shooting academy who holds bigoted views. The deputy had allegedly blogged about his admiration for Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, the academy’s founder, but deleted his posts and comments after the shooting.

The first court hearing in this wrongful death lawsuit is scheduled for today.

If you or someone you love is considering a wrongful death lawsuit, contact Melinda Helbock, an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer who has successfully represented bereaved clients in wrongful death and personal injury claims throughout San Diego and beyond.

NOTE: Melinda Helbock is not representing the family in this case.