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Lopez family files federal lawsuit over fatal shooting

  • Sujey Lopez Cruz addresses the media during a press conference, accompanied by her husband Rodrigo Lopez, in San Francisco on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy shot dead by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday and laid out the findings of their own private investigation into the shooting, which they claim was unjustified.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the parents of Andy Lopez, accuses Deputy Erick Gelhaus of acting recklessly when he shot Lopez seven times as the boy walked through a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood with an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle.

The lawsuit also faults the Sheriff's Office, accusing it of “encouraging, accommodating, or ratifying” the use of excessive force by deputies.

Andy Lopez Press Conference

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Lawyers for the family announced the suit during a press conference in downtown San Francisco. Parents Sujey Lopez Cruz and Rodrigo Lopez spoke briefly to a room packed with reporters.

“What I want to say is, we want justice,” the boy's father said. “And also we want an honest investigation.”

Their lawyer, Arnoldo Casillas, said the suit will ensure a critical review of the Oct. 22 shooting. Casillas accused investigators with the Santa Rosa Police Department of accepting the deputy's version without question.

He called the investigation so far a “whitewash,” pointing to police efforts to show similarities between the airsoft rifle and a real AK-47.

VIDEO: Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed

“It's a done deal, folks,” Casillas said. “They have already concluded it was justified. Shame on them.”

Santa Rosa police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, whose department is investigating the death, later defended the review, calling his investigators qualified and competent.

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