Kids Can Amend Suit|Against Killer Deputy

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Friends of a 13-year-old boy who was shot to death by a Sonoma County sheriff’s officer can amend their civil rights lawsuit claiming the county abused them when they protested the killing, a federal judge ruled.
     Sonoma County sheriff’s Officer Erick Gelhaus killed Andy Lopez in October in October 2013, shooting him seven times as he walked down the sidewalk carrying a toy rifle. Lopez’s parents sued the county and Gelhaus that November, claiming the county knew and covered up Gelhaus’ long history of misconduct with weapons.
     The lawsuit at issue here was brought by Jose Luis Godoy and three minors, who were Lopez’s friends.
     They say that on Jan. 9, 2014, they were on their way home from buying supplies to make posters to protest Lopez’s death when they were confronted by officers “believed to be deputies of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.”
     The officers, guns drawn, ordered them to the ground, where they roughly frisked and handcuffed them, and told one girl she was registered as a gang member and on “gang terms,” the kids said.
     They sued Sonoma County and its Sheriffs Office for unreasonable search and seizure, supervisory responsibility, municipal liability and civil rights violations.
     U.S. District Judge William Orrick on Friday granted their request to dismiss their first amended complaint, with leave to amend.
     Orrick found that none of the plaintiffs’ claims had been sufficiently alleged.
     The search and seizure claim did not allege conduct by any Santa Rosa police officer, the supervisory responsibility claim did not allege that two officers did anything specifically as supervisors, and the municipal liability claim did not demonstrate that the city had a policy that was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, Orrick found.
     He gave the plaintiffs 90 days from the Aug. 14 order to amend their complaint.
     The plaintiff’s attorney Christian Pereira called it “a very pragmatic decision.”
     “The majority of the people involved were children, so they didn’t have much experience with law enforcement folks,” Pereira told Courthouse News.
     He said discovery is under way.
     “I wish that more judges were as open to doing things like this,” he said.
     The defendants could not be reached for comment Monday evening. They are represented by Bonnie Freeman, with Senneff Freemane in Santa Rosa.
     Pereira is with Casillas Moreno, in Montebello.
     Gelhaus was returned to patrol duty a year ago. The killing sparked protests of police brutality, which protesters said was particularly directed against Latinos.

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