North Bay Cops Assaulted as Lopez Shooting Rally Turns Ugly

A Santa Rosa police officer is struck in the head with a wooden signpost. Demonstrators shut down a City Council meeting.

By James Lanaras and Scott Morris

Bay City News Service


Rowdy protests in Santa Rosa against the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy in October led to vandalism at the Sonoma County jail and two arrests today, law enforcement officials said.

The crowd gathered outside Santa Rosa City Hall at about 4:30 p.m. while the City Council was in session, Santa Rosa police said.

About 125 demonstrators tried to walk into the chamber but police prevented them, saying the council chambers were full.

The protesters then reacted by shouting at the officers, including with a bullhorn, interrupting the council meeting, police said.

One demonstrator allegedly hit a police officer in the head with a wooden signpost and another allegedly hit an officer in the face.

The two officers had minor injuries. A recess was called at the City Council meeting and the protesters were allowed to enter.

Police arrested a protester there on suspicion of hitting the officer with a signpost. 

He was identified as Ramon Cairo of Santa Rosa and was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, police said. The protesters later marched to the jail.

A door window of the main jail lobby was broken including by protesters who were young children, ages 4-10, according to the sheriff's office.

The protesters used wooden protest signs and crosses to vandalize the door but left after a dispersal order and marched to the sheriff's main office.

They attempted to move police barriers in front of the office but did not break through and then dispersed, the sheriff's office said.

Deputies made one arrest for suspicion of violation of probation and obstructing a police officer.

That person was identified by the sheriff's office as Jose Godoy, 24, of Santa Rosa. 

He was stopped leaving the scene in a vehicle and booked into jail, the sheriff's office said.

Earlier, more than a dozen speakers attended the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting this afternoon to protest the return to work today of the Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

Their appearance was part of a Day of Resistance to the Reinstatement of Deputy Erick Gelhaus who was on paid administrative leave since the Oct. 22 shooting on Moorland Avenue in Sonoma County southwest of Santa Rosa.

Among the speakers were several members of "Women in White." "Do you know what Sonoma County Justice means," asked Dara McCuistion of Santa Rosa.

"It means you kill a Mexican kid and you get two months paid vacation and your job back."

Gelhaus, 48, a 24-year sheriff's office employee, mistook the airsoft BB gun for an AK-47 assault rifle, according to Santa Rosa police who are investigating the fatal shooting.

Lopez was shot seven times. Gelhaus told police the barrel of the gun rose as Lopez turned toward him. Gelhaus, who was a firearms instructor and field-training officer, will perform administrative office duties, Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas said. Elaine Holtz told the board the return of Gelhaus to work was a "slap in the face of the community."

Addressing supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin, Holtz said, "I can't handle two women not saying this man should have gone back to work." Zach Britton, of Santa Rosa, asked the supervisors to place a moratorium on hiring military veterans and anyone who has been fired from other law agencies as sheriff's deputies. Britton said all sheriff's employees trained by Gelhaus should be retrained.

Nicole Guerro, of Santa Rosa, who presented the board with petitions containing 1,000 signatures demanding the vacant lot where Lopez was killed become Andy Lopez Memorial Park, criticized Supervisor Efren Carrillo.

"You need to do something about it. You need to be out there more," Guerro said.

The shooting happened in Carrillo's 5th district. "The community needs it. We demand it," Guerro said. Guerro told the board the Moorland Avenue residents don't want "just a slide and few swings thrown up."

The community members want to plant trees, get their hands dirty and build the park themselves so it becomes a place to gather and remember Lopez and all those killed in officer-involved shootings, Guerro said.

The board of supervisors has instructed county staff to report back in February with a plan and financing recommendations to create the park.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.


Jason Kahn December 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Maybe it would help to give the cops a special course on how to tell a fake gun from a real one-
Jim Caldwell December 11, 2013 at 12:14 PM
And maybe distribute a few flyers, in several languages, to inform parents that kids playing with toy guns need to know who not to point them at.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something