The lynch mobs are out again . . .

. . . and trying to make a Trayvon Martin-style martyr out of a 13-year-old boy.  You can read about the incident here.  Briefly, a teenage boy in Santa Rosa, California was walking down the street carrying an AK-47-style pellet or BB gun – the descriptions aren’t clear, but witnesses agree that it looked like an AK-47 assault rifle, and did not have an orange muzzle or anything else to show it was a toy.  When challenged by police, instead of complying with their instructions and dropping the gun, the boy is said to have turned towards them while raising it.  One policeman opened fire, with fatal consequences for the boy.

The policeman’s name has since been revealed to be Erick Gelhaus.  I’m sure many of you in the shooting community already know this, and those who haven’t yet read the news are thinking to themselves, “Where have I heard that name before?”  Erick’s a well-known policeman and shooting instructor, as well as a military veteran.  He’s written many articles online and for print publications about shooting and police matters.  He’s also trained many cops.  I’ve moved in the same online circles as he has for many years, and I respect all he’s been able to accomplish.

Trouble is, the media – particularly the far left – are trying to make him out to be a trigger-happy cop who shot an innocent kid.  Witness this opening sentence in a Huffington Post article today:

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

Talk about pre-judging the issue!  Note the weasel words:

  • “gunned down”, an expression implying criminal violence, instead of simply “shot”;
  • Calling the teen a ‘boy’ without referring to his size or appearance, thereby implying that he was a child instead of a young adult (a far more appropriate description for a 13-year-old);
  • “over a toy gun” – a complete misstatement of the facts.  If the law enforcement reports I’ve read are correct, Erick shot a young man who turned towards him while raising what appeared to be an AK-47-type rifle.  It could not be recognized as a toy in the time available or at the distance he was from the suspect, and he could not afford to risk taking the time to find out.  If he’d guessed wrongly, he’d have died there and then.  It’s a hard fact of law enforcement;  if you hesitate, the odds are pretty good you won’t be going home that night.  Far too many cops have found that out the hard way.

The left is trying to turn this into a crusade for “justice” for a “boy”, without waiting to learn the facts of the matter or find out more about the policeman they’re demonizing.  If your stomach can stand it, here’s one example to show you what they’re trying to do.  It’s sickeningly biased and partisan.  Other reports are more balanced, such as this one, or this profile of Erick.

Based on my knowledge of Erick, gleaned over the course of many years, I’m going to come down firmly on his side.  I don’t think he’s anything like the person his critics are trying to portray.  I’m sure he’s very distressed at having shot so young a man . . . but I also know that in the heat of the moment, faced with an imminent threat such as he was, I’d probably have opened fire too.  I’ve received law enforcement training in the use of firearms.  Our instructors were very blunt about the need to respond to a threat before that threat could kill you.  That appears to be precisely what Erick did.

I understand the concerns of those who believe that our law enforcement officers are becoming over-militarized and far too prone to ride roughshod over our constitutional rights.  I share those concerns, as those of you who’ve been regular readers will know.  However, I don’t think this incident involves any such concerns; nor do I think Erick can be numbered among those who think or act that way.  I’d trust him to ‘watch my six’ in a heartbeat, and I’d do the same for him.  There aren’t many LEO’s of whom I’d say that.

I’d be grateful if my fellow bloggers could please publicize the facts of this matter, either by linking to this post, or by composing their own.  We need to provide some facts to counterbalance the falsehoods being propagated by left-wing propaganda outlets.  I’d also be grateful if those of you so inclined would join me in praying for the deceased young man, and his family, and Erick, and his family, and all other victims in this affair – except for those trying to make political capital out of it.  They deserve nothing but contempt, scorn and derision.



  1. It was most likely an airsoft replica.

    I don't know how many of your readers are familiar with them, but they are virtually identical to the real thing.

    You want to know how identical they are? At a recent shooting competition I was at a traders table, and looked at one of his guns (a 1911). I even picked it up before realizing it was an airsoft replica. And I'm a fairly experienced shooter.

    The only thing that gives them away is that they are slightly lighter, and if you handle the action you can see they are not real. The action still works the same way, but the springs are lighter and you can see the pellet barrel inside which is obviously different. But to know that, you have to handle it yourself and examine it closely. Out on the street when someone else is holding it, I'd say it's impossible to say if it's real or not until it's fired.

    And not to forget, there's a reason why people that compete with airsofts wear protection. You can get hurt by a pellet in the wrong place.

  2. I am less than forgiving of this cop. Someone walking down the street with an "AK-47" would be such an unusual sight here in the States that my first thought would be, "that isn't a real weapon." I know it can happen, but what are the odds? Not bloody likely. Having had real AKs pointed at me makes me think that this cop over reacted. Supposedly the teenager pointed the "weapon" at him; for all we know, he didn't comprehend what the cop was saying or more likely was so ignorant that he didn't realize that someone might think it was a threat. In any case, he is quoted as saying, "Today is the day you may need to kill someone in order to go home." I don't care if a cop goes home; I care if I or a member of my family goes home. Someone who thinks that way doesn't need to be a cop. This is the kind of thinking that lets police get away with murder. They can kill just because they feel threatened, yet if a citizen shoots a cop that bursts through his door in the middle of the night, like Cory Maye, it is murder one.

  3. @Anonymous at 4:21 AM: I'm afraid that in certain parts of these United States, the sight of an AK-47 (a real one) isn't as strange as it should ideally be. In gang-infested neighborhoods, the AK-47 rifle and the Glock pistol are regarded as badges of having 'made it' – you're the man!

    As for saying "Today is the day you may need to kill someone in order to go home" – for cops, that's unfortunately true. I was taught the same thing at FLETC, and it's a daily reality in the worst areas of our nation. You may not like it, but that doesn't alter the fact that it's true.

    You said: "I don't care if a cop goes home; I care if I or a member of my family goes home. Someone who thinks that way doesn't need to be a cop." I'm afraid that shows your disdain for the lives of those who stand between you and the nastier sections of humanity. Why should you have the right to survive, but not a cop? Yes, there are bad cops, just as there are bad citizens. They're outnumbered, IMHO, by the 'good' cops, just as bad citizens are hopefully outnumbered by good ones. Besides – if you think that way about going home yourself, doesn't that make you as bad as the cops you seem to disdain? What gives you a greater right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than they have?

    Yes, cops make mistakes. They're human. I've made mistakes myself. I daresay you have too. In this case, the decision to fire is going to be exhaustively analyzed and deconstructed from every possible angle. I'm content to wait until all the facts are known; and until then, based on my knowledge of Erick, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Bottom line, the boy did the wrong thing, and paid the ultimate price for it. Had he done what he was told, he'd still be alive.

  5. I have commented elsewhere (usually related to stories by Radley Balko) about violent cops, so I understand where Anonymous is coming from. However, as soon as I saw in the initial story I read "no orange muzzle", my reaction was: Sad, even tragic, but I cannot fault the cop in this. Kid was ignorant of the real world, which is a common affliction of 13-year-olds. His family suffered a great loss, and the cop will most likely feel bad about this the rest of his life. Let's all learn from this and move on.

  6. "There but for the grace of God…"

    I don't fault either party in this tragedy.

    Looking at it from Officer Gelhaus' point of view, I probably would have reacted in the same way. From the boy's point of view – and at 13 he was indeed a "boy" – I have to think back on when I was 13 and how I might have reacted in this case. Back then, carrying a BB gun down the street was a common enough occurrence. If my 13yo self suddenly heard shouts of "STOP!. Drop the weapon!", I doubt I would have reacted in the "proper" way either. I most likely would have turned toward the shouter to see what all the fuss was about. And depending upon how I was carrying it, I might have even inadvertently raised the barrel of the BB gun.

    Today, I would most likely die for that indiscretion. Back then? Well, most likely nobody would have called the cops in the first place.

    And that's the difference I see.

    My prayers go out to BOTH sides of this tragedy. The kid, because he had to die for a mistake he was probably completely unaware he was making. And Officer Gelhaus, because he reacted exactly as he was trained to, and now will have to live with this tragedy for the rest of his life.

    And the people trying to spin this? Well, the less I say about them, the better.

    (Just imagine the sh%tstorm if the kid had been black!)

  7. Count me as one who stands with Officer Gelhaus. Gang punks run rampant with weapons there days, and even though this "toy" was sold with an orange tip originally to prevent it from being mistaken for a real weapon, this kid or someone else had removed that orange tip to make it look more real. Tragic, but foreseeable. The officer did as he and every other police officer is trained to do and has someone swung a weapon like that in my direction, I would not be waiting for the muzzle flash to tell me if it was real or not.

  8. [quote]… he could not afford to risk taking the time to find out. If he'd guessed wrongly, he'd have died there and then. It's a hard fact of law enforcement; if you hesitate, the odds are pretty good you won't be going home that night.[/quote]

    Going home at the end of the shift should never be the goal of a police officer, and should never be an excuse for their having done (or not doing) something. If the shooting was justified, based on the totality of the circumstances, then that's how it should be reported and how it should be considered by both police officers and the rest of society.

    Unless, of course, you are willing to give Joe Sixpack the same consideration when he shoots someone – that if he had not the odds were that he would not be going home that night. I'd hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but I really do look hideous in reds and blues.

    stay safe.

  9. For officer Gelhaus's consolation, see Jacob 3:1. My prayers in behalf of him and the victim are on the way.

  10. How did a 13-year old get a realistic-looking AK-47 replica? Unless he picked it up that day or parents were otherwise unaware he had it, why did they let him open carry the damn thing? (For those feeling the old typing-finger twitch of reflexive righteous anger at those words, my comment isn't about open carry in general, it's about parental responsibility.) And if they knew about the AK and decided it was a good idea to let him haul it around, why was he not taught how to respond safely (as possible) when challenged by LE?

    Incidentally, the linked HuffPo article looks like it was put out in a hurry. The decedent is variously referred to as both Lopez and "Cruz." As to the Daily Kos piece, how old was Lopez in that photo? He looks rather younger than the photos of him on various news sites. It definitely looks like the same tactic used by the Trayvonistas*. Plus, and rather trivially, why is the "N" in Andy reversed? Is this some lame attempt to look Cyrillic and "revolutionary?"

    *I am in no way equating Lopez with Martin. I really don't know much about Lopez one way or the other.

  11. Normally when someone gets shot due to displaying a realistic looking non-firearm, it is in the course of robbing someone. Legally, the end result is the same as if it was a real weapon. In other words, a reasonable person would agree that the shooter was in fear of death from the apparent weapon. You are not required to have your opponent prove it is a real gun, before responding with lethal force.

    BTW, betting your life on the fact that a gun isn't real just because it has an orange tip is just dumb. IIRC, there was a story recently about someone walking around a city park with an orange tip AR (AK?) pistol.

  12. Peter, I am sorry you feel that cops can murder someone just so they can go home. Would you feel the same if your child had been wearing earbuds and didn't hear the cop? I have had real AK-47s pointed at me and had an unloaded M-14 in my hands, yet I had the discipline to not cause an international incident. Just because a cop is scared is no reason to kill someone. If you think that one of your loved ones needs to die just because some trigger happy cop "wants to go home", well guess what? I want them to come home, too. The police are supposed to use judgment and discretion; this is one that didn't. He shouldn't get a free pass just because he was scared. I have put my life on the line, too. I have chosen to not kill someone who got to close to a restricted zone and because I was authorized deadly force, all I had to do was pull the trigger. I waited and found it was a French Harbor Police boat checking on us.
    You asked me " What gives you a greater right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than they have?" None, but I am not allowed the authority to protect myself that they do. I cannot carry the weapons they do, nor do I have all the backup firepower they have. In the words of a great philosopher, "With great power comes great responsibility." If I seem to have disdain for the police, it is because they have disdain for the public. Being sheepdog, I can recognize a wolf when I see one.

  13. I think the kindest thing I can say in response to Anonymous is that he has a distinct lack of reading comprehension when it comes to what Peter said. And then there's the complete lack of empathy and ability to put himself in Erick Gelhaus' shoes as he found himself having to make a split-second decision when faced with what was very apparently a real gun on its way to being pointed at him.

    He's already made up his mind that that Gelhaus is guilty of any number of crimes against humanity, and that nothing anyone says, no matter how reasonable or logical, will change his mind.

    Based on what I've read, Gelhaus had every reason and right to open fire. The results are very unfortunate, of course.

    What I'd like to know, from those who think Gelhaus is in the wrong: What if all of the circumstances were identical, except that the person he shot was a white adult male with a real gun?

  14. I have a question for all here…Exactly When did being a Police officer turn into a job that is NOT inherently dangerous?

    I mean, its become shoot first, shoot alot and the police officer knows there will be NO accountability, do to the Laws on the books.

    Our troops cant do this anymore, why is it OK for the police?

    I was raised by a Police officer, My father, who was shot at three times, once by a 12 yr old kid. he did not return fire, the kid dropped the gun,wet himself, ran and was caught by my dad…no dead KID.

    Things need to change, I for one would rather take the chance of getting hit than end a kids life with a mistaken identification of a toy…was it leagal because of the laws…yes, BUT I hope the officer can Live with himself.

    I have 3 kids, maybe my value of a young life is different….

    Thank you


  15. Yes, it's a dangerous job. But, a cop has a right to take actions that will ensure his safety and survival. That does NOT include requiring him to make himself available for target practice!!! I'm so happy to hear that you would cheerfully volunteer for the role, though.

    From all I've read, that was a clean shoot. The cop reacted to the situation in front of him. He had no way of knowing it was a toy. All he knew is that someone was bringing to bear an "assault rifle." The kid did not have what JayG has referred to as an "intent-o-meter" on him.

    I'm glad your dad chose not to return fire. I'm glad that kid and your dad survived. But what if your dad had been hit, and injured or killed? What tune would you be singing now?

    And, again, I repeat my question from my earlier post.

  16. I think that there's no question this was a split-second decision on the officer's part, and that he made the choice he did to prioritize his own safety. Whether you'd rather see a cop shoot someone who didn't intend to harm him or a cop be shot by someone who did seems like the issue on which answers rise and fall here, and there isn't a hard and fast answer that'll satisfy everyone. Me, I'm forced to choose along the lines of "innocent until proven guilty" – I'd rather see the cop take the risk he's sworn to take to protect the citizen until guilt or innocence can be established.

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