CRIME
10/29/2013 11:52 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2013

Erick Gelhaus Identified As Cop Who Killed Teenager Andy Lopez

Gunsite Academy

The Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who gunned down a 13-year-old California boy over a toy gun has been identified.

The Sheriff's office confirmed Sunday to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Deputy Erick Gelhaus, 48, fired the shots.

Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran of the office, is also an Iraq War veteran, firearms instructor and contributing writer to gun publications.

On Oct. 22, Gelhaus shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa, firing seven rounds into the teen.

The officer, accompanied by an officer-in-training, thought the teen was armed and radioed for backup. He ordered the boy to drop what he presumed to be a weapon. The object turned out to be a pellet gun, a toy in the shape of an AK-47.

Ten seconds later, Gelhaus allegedly opened fire when he saw Lopez -- his back to the deputies -- begin to turn around with the barrel of the toy gun rising. The officer-in-training did not fire, according to authorities.

In a 2008 article written by Gelhaus for S.W.A.T. Magazine, the officer warned against hesitation in deciding to use a firearm lethally.

"Today is the day you may need to kill someone in order to go home," he wrote. "If you cannot turn on the 'mean gene' for yourself, who will? If you find yourself in an ambush, in the kill zone, you need to turn on that mean gene."

His writings ranged from advice on how to hold and operate firearms to what to do in potentially life-threatening situations.

"Taking some kind of action -- any kind of action -- is critical," he wrote. "If you shut down (physically, psychologically, or both) and stay in the kill zone, bad things will happen to you. You must take some kind of action."

Gelhaus was previously in the Army and National Guard for six years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has also been a firearms instructor for over a decade at Gunsite Academy, an Arizona-based company that teaches gun-handling, marksmanship, and law enforcement to "free citizens of the U.S."

SFGate reported that in 1995, Gelhaus shot himself in the leg with his service handgun while holstering the firearm to frisk a teen for weapons. Officials said up until last Tuesday's shooting of Lopez, Gelhaus had never shot at a suspect before.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 people showed up to a service for the slain teen. On Tuesday, a march to the sheriff's office in protest of officer Gelhaus is expected to take place, according to the Associated Press.

Spokesman Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas said the sheriff's office has received multiple threats against Gelhaus, and that steps will be taken to protect him if necessary.

As an investigation into the incident continues with both the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the FBI, District Attorney Jill Ravitch is urging the public to be patient.

"In order for the process to succeed, I ask that we be given the time needed for a deliberate, step-by-step investigation to occur," Ravitch said. "I know we all seek the truth about what occurred on Oct. 22, and there is no one more committed to determining the facts than me."

Gelhaus and the officer-in-training have been placed on administrative leave.

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