A California sheriff’s deputy killed a 13-year-old by he thought was carrying an AK-47. Law enforcement groups are asking the Supreme Court to say that the officer didn’t use excessive force.
In 2013, Andy Lopez, 13, walked in Santa Rosa, Ca., loosely carrying at his side a plastic pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle. Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus, an Iraq war veteran, thought the boy might be carrying an AK-47. Gelhaus jumped out of a patrol car and shouted “Drop the gun!” As Lopez turned toward him, Gelhaus fired eight shots, killing the boy. The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to shield the deputy from being sued by the parents of the boy on the grounds that no law “squarely governs” the situation and defines the shooting as “excessive force,”the Los Angeles Times reports.
Joined by California law enforcement groups, Sonoma County’s lawyers are urging the justices to “support the common sense proposition that officers need not wait for a gun to actually be leveled or pointed at them before responding with deadly force to protect themselves and the public.” They stand a good chance of prevailing, even though the high court grants only about one percent of appeal petitions. The justices have regularly intervened in police shooting cases to overturn rulings that cleared the way for a jury to decide whether an officer used excessive force. In April, the court, by a 7-2 vote, tossed out a lawsuit against a Tucson police officer who shot a woman four times as she stood in her front yard holding a large kitchen knife. The officer decided she was threatening another woman who stood six feet away. The other woman later said they were housemates and she did not feel threatened.