The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has officially concluded that deputy Erick Gelhaus “honestly and reasonably” felt his life was in imminent danger from a 13-year-old boy carrying a plastic assault rifle replica when he shot the kid eight times, killing him instantly. Gelhaus will not face any charges, as his use of lethal force has been deemed “reasonable”.
Here’s what happened:
The eighth-grader [Andy Lopez], clad in a hooded sweatshirt, was walking near his home on the way to a friend’s house in the wine-country town of Santa Rosa when Gelhaus and his partner spotted the boy from their patrol car carrying what appeared to be an AK-47.
The deputies stopped their car and ordered Andy to drop the gun, but as the youth turned toward the officers, Gelhaus saw the rifle barrel rise upward and he fired eight shots at the boy, according to police accounts of an incident that unfolded in a matter of seconds. (source)
And that’s that. The kid didn’t even get a chance to fully turn around to know what he was in trouble for, or really to even utter a word. Eight shots. Dead.
While people continue to argue the merits of Gelhaus’ actions in this particular case, the bigger issue here is the double-standard that exists between how cops handle any given situation and everyone else, as this Yahoo! News commenter True Patriot explains:
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The problem with this situation is that there is a double-standard between the protocols police use and the Joe-average citizen.
Let’s just say that as a Joe-Average citizen, I’m walking down the street and I see this kid walking toward me with what appears to be a firearm. What would happen to me if I shot the kid dead?…….I’d be in jail. Plain and simple. While the law allows for lethal self defense, it is always based on what a “reasonable” person would do or expect. It doesn’t matter what I think of felt? For example:
* Was he running at you? No. Guilty.
* Or would you expect someone holding a “real” firearm to be just walking along the street? No. Guilty
* Did he point the “weapon” at you? No. Guilty
* Did you tell him to drop the gun? Yes. Didn’t you notice that he had earphones in? No. So you didn’t pay close enough attention to whether he could hear you, so it’s doubtful you paid close enough attention to see if the weapon is real? Well aaaaaaaa. Guilty.
I could go on, but the laws are written so that we as private citizens are almost in mortal danger before we can respond. But an officer, who wears body armor and has a second officer already there and can call backup doesn’t have to be a “reasonable” person; he can just act on what he thinks and feels without being in any real danger.