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Protesters demand action for Andy Lopez killing

Gina Klemen of Santa Rosa  uses a mirror to reflect the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors during a meeting, Tuesday Jan. 7, in response to the Andy Lopez shooting. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Gina Klemen of Santa Rosa uses a mirror to reflect the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors during a meeting, Tuesday Jan. 7, in response to the Andy Lopez shooting. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

By SEAN SCULLY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Hundreds of protesters converged on the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, demanding a variety of actions in the wake of the shooting last year of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

“We don’t care about your procedures,” activist Magick Altman told the supervisors, drawing cheers from the raucous crowd. “They have allowed Gelhaus to return to work while Andy’s family has a bullet hole in its heart.”

Lopez was shot to death as he walked along Moorland Avenue south of Santa Rosa on Oct. 22 after Gelhaus mistook an airsoft-style BB-gun he was carrying for a real assault rifle. Gelhaus has returned to work, but not to street patrol, after seven weeks on administrative leave. It is up to District Attorney Jill Ravitch to decide whether he will face any criminal charges in the incident, though she has not set a date for making that determination.

Video:

Protesters on Tuesday waived signs demanding that Gelhaus be prosecuted and accusing the department of systematic brutality. Many held up mirrors, a gesture organizers said was to force the supervisors to reflect on their role in failing to prevent this and other shootings of civilians by officers.

Santa Rosa resident Ana Salgado said she feels as if the supervisors and other officials are teaching officers “that we are the enemy; we are not the enemy.”

“You can feel the arrogance of the officials, the officers, from a mile away,” she said in Spanish, speaking through a translator.

(See more photos from the meeting)

Supervisors said little in response to the remarks, which were often bitterly critical of the board. Chairman David Rabbitt sought to outline some actions the board has taken in the wake of the shooting, but he was shouted down by the crowd. He spent the rest of the meeting largely in silence.

Earlier in the day, however, the board made good on a promise made shortly after the shooting, appointing 19 of the 21 members to the newly formed “Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force,” a panel designed to hear community concerns and recommend possible policy reforms, including some kind of civilian review panel for law enforcement agencies. The other two members were named later Tuesday by Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley.

The panel’s first meeting will be Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. at the county’s Department of Human Services office at 2227 Capricorn Way in Santa Rosa. The agenda and other details will be posted on the county website later this week, staff said.

Protesters, however, seemed to find this and other gestures by the board to be inadequate. “We don’t want review” of police actions, longtime Occidental activist Mary Moore said. “We want oversight; there is a big difference.”

She and others criticized the board for failing to enact a series of recommendations by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that called for new training, policies, and independent oversight for police agencies in Sonoma County after a series of shootings by officers in the 1990s.

Tuesday’s protest was peaceful but often disorderly, with the audience cheering, jeering and shouting out, often in profane terms. Sheriff’s deputies were out in unusual force, but there did not appear to be any confrontations between officers and protesters.

Some in the crowd directed particular venom toward Rabbitt, who has been harshly criticized by some in the Latino community after an independent group issued a flier during the 2010 election attacking Rabbitt’s opponent for supporting the idea of developing a “sanctuary” program for undocumented immigrants in the county.

A few also attacked Supervisor Efren Carrillo, the board’s only Latino member, saying he does not support his community and noting his arrest last year on suspicion of trying to break into a woman’s apartment in the early hours of a weekend day. He has apologized for the incident and blamed alcohol abuse, for which he has sought treatment. He is facing trial this year on a misdemeanor charge of “peeking.”

Susan Lamont, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Center in Sebastopol, dismissed all members of the board, saying they are part of “a power structure that does not serve this community.”

The protest movement, she said, “is about institutional neglect, and sometimes outright institutional hostility” toward minorities and the poor.





8 Responses to “Protesters demand action for Andy Lopez killing”

  1. Larry says:

    The Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury has no authority, resources or capability to actually review the evidence in any “use of deadly force” investigation.

    The Grand Jury is charged only with ensuring the proper investigative procedures were carried out as mandated by policy. However, it is not trained in any of the procedures, so is unable to know whether the procedures were carried out properly or not.

    The Grand Jury knows this, but no one else seems to be aware of it.

    This is one reason a Civilian Review Board is necessary in Sonoma county.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Nutty Radio Host Elaine B. Holtz says:

    Photo contains proof positive that occasionally SR Gadfly and radio host on tiny public access stations,Elaine B. Holtz occasionally listens!

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. Black Panther Founder Speaks to Supes says:

    The man sitting next to the woman with the mirror is none other than Elbert “Big Man” Howard. He was one of the founders of the Black Panthers. That group was notorious for opposing restrictions on weapons…and for a series of crimes.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  4. James Bennett says:

    From what I understand David Rabbitt thought these people were humorous.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  5. Robert says:

    Well, Richard has it all figured out. Bravo.
    1. So we need an unelected, unaccountable group of activists to payback law enforcement for their past traffic citations and drunk arrests. Cool, revenge is sweet.
    2. Medical aid. We need to require unarmed, defenseless, privately employed paramedics into a scene before it is safe, regardless of the danger to their lives.
    3. More paperwork is the key. You don’t believe law enforcement already. How is asking them to report more going to help if you don’t believe them in the first place.
    4. Ignorance is bliss. Law enforcement is already licensed, by the state. With real paperwork and everything.
    5. Wow, 4 inch tall numbers.
    6. No lethal force. Let them go. Allow them to flee. So what if they kill one of your family members later because they were allowed to flee and were dangerous.
    7. This is the same as 10. Law enforcement must wait until they are shot, to shoot. Let the bad guy draw first, take aim, and get the first few shots off. Makes sense. If they are acting like they are reaching for a weapon, let them. Cool. Thank goodness everything in your world is black and white and easily distinguished in 2 seconds. Utopia.
    8. Money. It usually comes down to that. How is rehabilitation working on criminals today? Oh right, it isn’t. They are criminals. You can’t fix immoral, dishonest people who choose crime. They would rather steal/assault/rape/deal drugs/murder, than behave themselves.
    9. Not a bad idea.
    10. Back to number 7. Forget being run over by cars, stabbed, or beat to death. Only use the gun if you are being shot at. Otherwise, you will be fired. Keep your life insurance paid up coppers. By the way, if the real looking gun Lopez was carrying was real, neither deputy would have stood a chance. That consideration was probably weighed in that situation.

    Everything here has been prejudged. Decided in advance and nothing will sway haters of the system to change their mind. They have that right. They also have free speech. Others also have freedom from their speech. I choose to disagree with most of Richards suggestions.

    Here’s an idea. Can’t we all just get along?

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  6. David Stubblebine says:

    Richard:
    1. Citizen oversight already exists – in spades. In fact the Sheriff is overseen by two, separate citizen panels: the Board of Supervisors and the Grand Jury. Not to mention Superior Court.

    2. I am not aware of what you speak but the Geneva Convention applies only in declared wars and does not apply here. There is no need for it either since the requirements for treatment of jail & prison inmates exceeds the requirements for POWs on every level.

    3. Preposterous. In my 31 years in law enforcement, I probably had calls where I unholstered two dozen times a month every month. Your suggestion would only serve to cripple law enforcement under mountains of paperwork so that there would be no time to provide services to the public.

    4. The state already requires more training and certification for law enforcement than many of the licensed professions. Everything you ask for is already in place except the license itself.

    5. Unnecessary. Visible name or numbers have been required by law for 100 years. In this age of smart-phones and YouTube, identifying a particular officer is not difficult. How many cases have there really been where the identity of the officer could not be determined?

    6. This is already the law (under the civil law). The shooting at fleeing felons went out long ago.

    7. Completely unreasonable. Reasonable behavior is required from all parties (including law enforcement, to be sure) but the assessment of reasonableness is only reasonable itself if it assesses the facts available at the time the actions were taken. To assess reasonableness based on facts unknown at the time but discovered later is – well – unreasonable.

    8. California asset-forfeiture laws are very different from Georgia’s. The review process to seize assets (which includes judicial review) is so cumbersome that it is not worth the effort in many cases. In the extreme cases, there are so many agencies with their hands out that the reviews go through an exhausting level of scrutiny bordering on the absurd.

    9. Probably a problem with a workable solution but maybe they should not have gotten themselves taken to jail in the first place. It’s jail, not a resort.

    10. The most completely preposterous idea on the list. This creates open season to kill cops with the first shot. You cannot impose rules on cops you would not want imposed on yourself. If you were one being attacked and the officer had a clear shot to stop the attack, would you really want the attacker to draw blood before the officer could protect you? Preposterous.

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  7. David Stubblebine says:

    The BOS is the County’s legislative body and the makers of County policy. The Andy Lopez shooting investigation is still in the fact-finding stage. Absent clear and glaring evidence that the investigation is being bungled somehow, the right thing for the BOS to do right now is nothing. There will be a right time for them to weigh in, but now isn’t it.

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  8. RICHARD says:

    The following is offered for your consideration:

    1 Where as public safety is too important to be left completely to law enforcement, there shall be a citizen oversight board, with subpena power and power to discipline including termination, to over see law enforcement. The sheriff shall be required to cooperate with the citizen oversight board

    2 Medical aid shall be rendered immediately to everyone injured by law enforcement. People have been denied medical care by law enforcement and have been left to die even when aid was available. Law enforcement has even prevented aid from being administered to persons injured by law enforcement, this a war crime under The Geneva Conventions.

    3 Law enforcement shall report every unholstering or drawing of a weapon. When a weapon: firearm, gun, taser, mace etc is deployed, even when not use, that shall be reported in writing. The report shall Include: who, when, what, where and why. All reports shall be reviewed, signed by the reviewer and forwarded to the citizen oversight board and permanently filed with the law enforcement department involved.

    4 Everyone working in law enforcement should be licensed by the state. To lawfully work as an attorney, doctor, beautician, barber etc one must be licensed by the state. State licensing ought also be required to work in law enforcement. Licensing will add a level of professionalism and oversight. It should be easier for the state to suspend or revoke a license than a law enforcement department to suspend or remove one of their own. Licensing could also prevent someone fired from one jurisdiction from being hired by another disjunction. The state needs to establish licensure for law enforcement.

    5 Persons working in law enforcement shall be easily identifiable by a number. The identification number shall be four inches high, it shall appear on the chest, back, sleeves, trouser legs and helmet. The identification number shall be bright and contrast with the background uniform color. This is especially important for persons in riot gear such as tactical squads.

    6 Lethal force shall not be use to apprehend a suspect. Lethal force shall only be used when one is under lethal attack.

    7 When an unarmed person is killed, the law enforcement personnel responsible shall be removed from law enforcement. Killing an unarmed person is too serious to be acceptable. Even if it was an honest mistake, the magnitude of such a mistake warrants the killers termination from employment in law enforcement. There ought be accountability. People are justly fired for far less serious mistakes.

    8 Asset seizure / forfeiture shall be subject to judicial oversight, law enforcement shall not have the power to keep and dispose of seized assets on their own authority. All drug assets seized shall be used only for drug rehabilitation. These assets shall not be used for law enforcement, otherwise a mercenary situation exist. “…law enforcement offices in Fulton County, Georgia are using asset forfeiture money on galas, back-rent, fancy restaurants and a field trip to see Headline News anchor Nancy Grace…” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/police-brutality-2013/

    9 Jail inmates and persons detained at the jail are being release late at night [ 22:00 ] and early in the morning [ 02:00 ]. It is not helpful releasing people from custody when buses are not running and most places are closed.

    10 Law enforcement shall fire only when fired upon. Too many unarmed people have been killed by law enforcement. If this rule had been followed Andy Lopez would still be alive. Law enforcement ought not be a license to kill. It takes more courage to not, repeat not, fire than it does to fire.

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