Erick Gelhaus, a Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy, killed 13 year old Andy Lopez a little after 3:00 PM on Tuesday, October 22nd, in Santa Rosa, California. It was the same day that over fifty families and their supporters gathered in Sacramento to protest against police violence and demand unbiased investigations into police shootings from California's Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Today, we learned what kind of person fires eight shots within a few seconds - six after his target had allegedly already fallen to the ground - after rolling up on a thirteen year old from behind for no obvious reason.
The Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who fired the shots that killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez last week is a firearms expert, Iraq War veteran and prolific contributor to magazines and online forums dealing with guns and police use of force.
The Sheriff's Office confirmed Sunday that Deputy Erick Gelhaus, 48, fired the shots. A 24-year veteran of the office, Gelhaus has been a frequent advocate in his writing for a prepared, aggressive stance in law enforcement, a profession he has described as a "calling" and likened to a "contact sport."
In a 2008 article he wrote for S.W.A.T. Magazine about strategies for surviving an ambush in the "kill zone," Gelhaus began by describing the "nanoseconds (that) seem like minutes as you scramble to react while simultaneously thinking about your children and spouse." ...
An online profile posted on LinkedIn states that Gelhaus served as a non-commissioned officer with the Army National Guard from 2004 to 2010. While serving in Iraq, he reportedly supervised a heavy weapons squad and testified in court trials of insurgents.
He also is an adjunct instructor, according to his LinkedIn profile, for Gunsite Academy, an Arizona company that teaches markmanship, gun-handling and other skills to military personnel, law enforcement and "free citizens of the U.S."
In an incident eerily reminiscent of Oakland Police Officer Miguel Masso's killing of Alan Blueford after Alan was racially profiled and stopped
, Gelhaus also managed to shoot himself in the foot after a stop-and-frisk incident involving a teenager.
Gelhaus' role as a firearms instructor dates back to at least 1995. In an accident that made the news that year, he shot himself in the leg with his service handgun while holstering the gun to frisk a teen for weapons.
The freaky coincidences continue. It seems that aGelhaus is an avid contributer to police journals.
He ((Gelhaus)) wrote for S.W.A.T. in 2008 that among the things he tells his trainees early on is that "Today is the day you may need to kill someone in order to go home."
And in one contribution we have an eerie foretelling of what happened to Andy Lopez and how Gelhaus will respond. According to many accounts of the October 22nd incident
The deputy mistook the BB gun for an assault rifle...
While we have what Gelhaus wrote years ago:
In one revealing thread, forum members debated whether the use of force is justified if someone brandishes or fires a BB gun at another person.
Gelhaus chimed in, writing that "It's going to come down to YOUR ability to articulate to law enforcement and very likely the Court that you were in fear of death or serious bodily injury.
"I think we keep coming back to this, articulation -- your ability to explain why -- will be quite significant," Gelhaus wrote.
Gelhaus is a highly trained combat veteran who seems to glorify weapons. Admittedly without the statistics to back it up, it seems like people with military training comprise more and more of our police, bringing to these organizations a mentality that everyone "out there" is the enemy, rather than the Protect and Serve ideals we would like to believe we pay police to live up to.
Still, I don't think Gelhaus and his take on policing are really the problem. People like Gelhaus (and there will always be people who are like Gelhaus) aren't really the problem.
People who hire people like Gelhaus, who put those people into positions of authority and supervision and allow them to spread worldviews such as Gelhaus' through police departments - these are one aspect of the problem.
The people who hire the people who hire people like Gelhaus, those who are more than willing to glorify the militarization of police and the mentality that the community must be protected against "gangs" and "terrorists" (and "Occupy") with ever increasing staff, budgets and armaments - despite the lowest levels of crimes in decades and the ever-increasing violations of civil rights which must ensue - are another aspect of the problem.
But the people of the United States who put up with this ever-increasing militarization and consequent costs, this is the paramount problem. The people who continue to support a failed War on Drugs whose only achievement is bloated budgets and staffing increases for police forces, the people who put up with the incarceration of far, far more people per capita than any other civilized country in the world and the costs thereof, the people of the United States who allow the mentally ill and the disabled to be gunned down in the streets by police who now believe only in the cult of compliance, these are the real problem.
And this problem sees no solution that I can fathom. Day after day I sit and watch as the latest police atrocity scrolls across my twitter feed. Today, a man who was incoherent and foaming at the mouth was killed by police is Southern California.
Perhaps I will march tomorrow in Santa Rosa. But that act will fall on deaf ears, and cold hearts. And if those ears were to detect a sound or the hearts were to warm a degree or two, the ultra-rich through the political class that serve them would shut such sentiments down. Hard.
What became of our country?
A few other DKos diaries on the death of Andy Lopez:
FBI to investigate shooting of Andy Lopez.
It's just a toy.
Toy Guns and Popsicles.
5:19 PM PT:
A father's wail rose Sunday above the drumbeats in a room full of people come to mourn Andy Lopez, the Santa Rosa middle-schooler shot dead by a sheriff's deputy last week.
“My son, my beautiful son,” cried Rodrigo Lopez during the viewing service held Sunday at a Windsor mortuary and attended by more than 1,000 people.
And a mother's grief kept Sujey Lopez bent over her son's open casket, her arms cradling her son's face for more than eight hours during the day-long visitation.