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Hundreds Protest Police Killing of Santa Rosa Eighth-Grader

| October 24, 2013
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The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department released this photo of a replica assault rifle they say a 13-year-old boy was carrying when shot and killed by deputies.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department released this photo of a replica assault rifle they say a 13-year-old boy was carrying when shot and killed by deputies.

Also on KQED’s News Fix: Coroner: Deputy Shot Santa Rosa Teenager Seven Times

Update, 8:45 a.m. Thursday: The fatal police shooting of a 13-year-old in Santa Rosa earlier this week prompted hundreds of people to protest Wednesday night. Here’s the Santa Rosa Press Democrat account:

A Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy’s fatal shooting of a Santa Rosa eighth-grader Tuesday sent several hundred people to streets Wednesday night to mourn and demand answers as to how deputies mistook a BB gun for an AK-47-style assault rifle.

A march of families and neighbors moved down Corby and Moorland avenues toward the site where 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed, chanting “We need justice” as passing cars honked.

“We don’t know the reason why they killed him; they should know if a gun is real,” said one marcher, Katia Ontiveros, 18, who said Lopez was her brother’s friend.

Update, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday: At a press conference at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center this afternoon, new details were released about the Tuesday shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies.

Lt. Paul Henry of the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is handling the investigation, displayed the “toy” or “replica” gun Andy was holding alongside a real AK-47 assault rifle. According to Bay City News, Henry said “Andy’s gun had a thinner barrel that was 6 to 8 inches shorter than the real rifle and was colored differently but was missing the orange plastic tip that typical differentiates a fake gun from a real one.”

The Press Democrat describes the toy and real weapons as being “remarkably similar,” but adds:

… In the light of the Finley Center the model Lopez carried was clearly plastic with a transparent center section. The BB gun also had a shorter barrel. Henry noted that the orange or red tip often found on toy guns appeared to be missing from the model Lopez carried.

The BCN report continues:

After spotting Andy and stopping their marked patrol car with the top rotating lights activated about 20 to 30 feet from him, the deputies called for backup, sheltered behind the open car door and ordered Andy to “put the gun down,” Henry said.

Andy, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and shorts, was walking  with his back to the two deputies. After they yelled the order, he started turning around and as he did one of the deputies said he saw the barrel of the gun rising and turning toward him, according to Henry.

The deputy, fearing for his safety and knowing that style of gun could penetrate body armor, the metal exterior of the patrol car and the walls of the houses nearby, fired several rounds at Andy, striking him at  least once, Henry said.

Andy immediately fell to the ground. The deputies approached him and handcuffed him and realized he was unresponsive.

Original post:
Law-enforcement agencies are investigating a Tuesday afternoon shooting on the outskirts of Santa Rosa in which two Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed an eighth-grader carrying what’s being described as a “toy” or “replica” version of an AK-47 assault rifle.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports deputies spotted 13-year-old Andy Lopez carrying the object in a neighborhood on the southern edge of the city at 3 p.m. Tuesday According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Department, here’s what happened next:

[The deputies] immediately called for an emergency response from other deputies and officers that were in the area. The two deputies repeatedly ordered the subject to drop the rifle and at some point immediately thereafter, the deputies fired several rounds from their handguns at the subject striking him several times. The subject fell to the ground and landed on top of the rifle he was carrying.

After several commands ordering the subject to move away from the rifle deputies approached and placed him in handcuffs. At this point the subject was unresponsive. After securing the rifle the deputies began administering first aid and requested emergency medical aid from fire and ambulance. The subject was pronounced deceased at the scene by the responding paramedics. …

… Once the scene was secured deputies learned that the rifle was a replica of an assault weapon. When the deputies searched the subject they also found a plastic hand gun in his waistband.

Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting.

Among the questions not answered by the sheriff’s account so far is how much time elapsed between the time deputies ordered the teen-ager to drop the object or how the teen responded to the order.

The Press Democrat also reports that Lopez had attended Cook Middle School until earlier this week. Administrators there informed teachers and students of his death:

“We’re having a tough day,” said Assistant Principal Linsey Gannon. “Our community has been rocked by this tragedy.”

Lopez had gone to Cook for seventh grade and up until Friday was an eighth grader at the Sebastopol Road school.

At Cook he was well known and well liked, said Gannon. She said he also played trumpet in the school band.

“He was a very popular student, very smart, very capable,” Gannon said.

Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas issued a statement on the shooting Wednesday that reads in part:

As a father of two boys about this age, I can’t begin to imagine the grief this family is going through. This is a tragedy on many levels…for the terrible loss of Andy Lopez, his family, the family’s loved ones, friends, our community, and the members of the Sheriff’s Office. …

The public expects that the investigation will be thorough and transparent. As Sheriff, I will do all in my power to see that expectation is satisfied.

My hope is that we can work with the community to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.

The Sheriff’s Department says that, following normal protocol after a deputy-involved shooting, Santa Rosa and Petaluma police and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office are all investigating the incident. The unidentified officers who killed Lopez have been placed on administrative leave — also routine procedure after a shooting.

Tuesday’s incident was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Sonoma County this year. It was also one of three fatal police shootings in the Bay Area in 24 hours. The two other incidents:

  • The San Jose Mercury News reports that San Bruno police killed an auto-theft suspect, Ryan Salonga, 25, of San Francisco. Police say Salonga drove toward an officer early Tuesday morning while trying to get out of a dead-end street. They say the officer opened fire because he feared for his life.
  • On Monday night, the Chronicle reports, a Union City police officer killed a man who allegedly threatened him with a pipe.

 

There are many questions surrounding this tragic event. To find out more, KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with Peter Keane, Dean Emeritus at Golden Gate University Law School.

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Category: Law, News

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Juan Romualdo Martinez Cazador

    If they’re not killing retarded people they’re killing children. They won’t kill crminals because then they’d have to kill themselves.

    Once again the nation of Douche Bags shows it’s true self to the world.

  • Greg Wilcox

    It is absolutely maddening that you and everyone else in the media have failed to ask the critically important questions: who was the idiot who gave this “toy” to Andy Lopez, and why didn’t the parents exercise the slightest intelligence in warning their son about its dangers? The public discourse is all about blaming the policemen, blaming the appearance of the gun, blaming the kid’s behavior, blaming the police training, blah, blah, blah. But this killing would never have occurred if the child had not had a replica of a lethal weapon of war. It was the catastrophically stupid behavior of the donor and the parents that were the real cause of this tragedy.
    Also worth noting (but never addressed):
    1. Won’t REAL terrorists now paint the tip of their AK-47′s to look like toys?
    2. What in the world was Andy doing with a BB gun anyway? Killing innocent wildlife I suppose.
    3. Does it really make sense for our culture to romanticize weapons of war?
    Our gun culture has blinded you and prevented you from asking the important questions. Won’t SOMEONE say that the emperor has no clothes?

    • Steve

      I doubt it-we live in a culture where its easier to demonize cops than it is to look at ALL the factors that led to this. A kid is dead and all facts and critical thinking go out the window-because that is all people are taught to see.

    • David Phillips

      The real question is who is the idiot that gave the shooter a badge. Hey Greg – I bet you had a toy gun or two in your room as a kid. You bum hypocrite.

  • Student

    Greg Andy was a good boy I’m a student at his school and what was he doing with a BB gun you asked well he was later that day going to play with air soft guns on the field he was hot on with his friends someone told me that the field was always being used as a playing ground with the airs oft guns andy did nothing wrong he was shot when not supposed to ! We all miss him soo bad “ANDY LOPEZ GONE BUT NOT FORGOTEN”
    “WE WANT JUSTICE” “WE WANT ANDY”

    • David Phillips

      All of these hypocrites played with toy guns when they were kids. I had a paintball gun that looked like an AR that I shot trees with out in the back. The Sheriff never drove up and killed me.

    • Charles Applegate

      I had BB guns that looked like rifles, and we ran around with them and never got shot to death either.

  • california

    only one sheriff officer shot Andy 7 times. I am guessing the other officer wasn’t feeling threaten since he never fired his gun?

    • David Phillips

      Yup. I guess Police man #2 must have had a grudge for his partner otherwise he would have opened fire to protect his buddy from the Citizen with the mock-AK.

  • Santa Rosa Families

    The kid was executed brutally in broad daylight by a Sonoma County sheriff deputy in Santa Rosa. It was an unnecessary use of deadly force which rocks the entire Hispanic community.

    • David Phillips

      Police Blunder of epic proportion. No reports of any shots fired or gunman on the loose. Dumb cop driving by jumps to the wrong conclusion thinking he has a gang-banger with an AK in his grasp so he grabs his crotch and goes racing in like John Wayne.

      After realizing they screwed up, they are obviously going to say that the kid aimed the toy gun at them. The Public is expected to believe that the kid must have been suicidal and looking for a suicide by cop despite all the evidence to the contrary.

      Bunch of bums! Protect, Serve, and Cover-Up the crimes of your co-workers.

  • newt

    All the talk about the missing “orange tip.” Has anyone noticed that toy is not only missing the “orange tip” but approx 5″ of the barrel which includes the front sight! People need to start asking “Where did it go?”.
    To bad these officers were not familier with the AK and its varients, they would have been able to tell from a good distance that something was a miss on how that “rifle” looked. There is not one single varient of the actual Kalashnikov (AK) in which the barrel ends right at the gas block like that, not one. In addition, without additional modification to the gas port size (lots of work for a non gunsmith), simplie modifing/cutting down an AK in that particular barrel location would make a real Kalashnikov inoperable, as it would not cycle.
    Within only a few sec of viewing that pic I could tell exactly what it was… a broken toy.

    • Snowden

      NEWT, YOU’RE ABSOLUTLEY CORRECT!! The entire barrel of the gun is missng in the picuture and according to follow student’s he got this gun from another kid to go shot. bb,s in a nearby field. the is something amisshere for sure. How insane!

  • Arlen Bauer

    Go to youtube “Proof America is under police siege. Protect and serve
    is a lie” and see how the Santa Rosa Ca. police treated another
    citizen.

  • WTF

    The outrage for me is this officer valued his life more than he valued the life of a 13 year old boy. I believe we pay them quite well to hold these values, to protect and serve the public not themselves. Even if the gun was real! I believe it is worth the officers’ life to find that out. For them to even think that this boy could handle that kind of weapon if it was real is ridicules especially when grown men have trouble doing it. A real weapon weighs 10lbs! Try holding a 10lbs dumb bell out with your arm fully extended. Its obvious to me that this officer lacked the common sense needed to perform his duty to protect and serve.