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FBI to Investigate Deputy’s Killing of Santa Rosa Teenager

| October 25, 2013
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Andy Lopez, shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy earlier this week.

Andy Lopez, shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy earlier this week.

Also on KQED’s News Fix: Hundreds Protest Police Killing of Santa Rosa Eighth Grader

Update, Friday 11:45 p.m.: The FBI says it’s investigating Tuesday’s fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy. Sheriff Steve Freitas announced the FBI’s entry into the case in a brief press release Friday evening. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports this statement from the FBI in San Francisco:

A spokesman in the FBI’s San Francisco office called the agency’s inquiry a “shooting review,” looking into the “incident itself (and) the deputies’ response.”

“We’re going to look into the facts of that,” said Peter Lee, a public affairs specialist with the bureau. “It’s a civil rights-type of case.”

Among the prominent issues in the case is a timeline released Thursday by Santa Rosa police, who are also investigating the shooting. That account shows that only 10 seconds passed between the time two deputies first reported spotting Lopez, who was carrying a replica assault rifle that was actually a pellet or BB gun, and the time they reported shots fired. The deputies had pulled up behind Lopez and, according to police and sheriff’s accounts, and in that 10 seconds, they called for backup, took cover behind their open car doors, and warned Lopez twice to put down his gun. Police say one of the deputies, a 24-year veteran of the department, opened fire when the teen turned around. The deputy fired eight shots with his service weapon, hitting the eighth grader seven times. The second deputy did not open fire.

Lopez died at the scene of the shooting.

Lopez’s death prompted yet another protest in Santa Rosa on Friday, with hundreds of students marching to the sheriff’s office and other locations.

The Santa Rosa Police Department issued a statement Thursday on coroner’s findings in the fatal shooting earlier this week of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy. Police say eight shots were fired in the encounter and an autopsy found Thursday the boy had been hit seven times. The statement also includes a timeline that indicates only 10 seconds passed between the time dispatchers recorded a “suspicious person” report from deputies — who had spotted Lopez carrying what turned out to be a BB gun that resembled an assault rifle — and the moment one of the officers opened fire.

The killing has provoked anger in Santa Rosa, and for the second night in a row hundreds of people marched to protest the shooting Thursday evening.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports the deputy who killed Lopez is a veteran officer:

The deputy … is a 24-year veteran of the force, Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas said Thursday.

His partner, who did not fire his weapon, was a new hire to the Sheriff’s Office with 11 years of experience in law enforcement and was in a period of training, Dueñas said.

Dueñas declined to release the deputies’ names and said they were investigating a series of threats made to the deputies’ lives.

The Police Department gave this account of the preliminary autopsy findings:

On Thursday, October 24, 2013, the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy of Andy Lopez Cruz. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Arthur Josselson with the Forensic Medical Group. The examination was attended by investigators
from the Santa Rosa Police Department and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office. Final autopsy results will not be available for several weeks. The following preliminary information can be released.

There were seven apparent entry wounds discovered in the body. Two of the wounds were determined to be fatal wounds. One of the bullets that resulted in a fatal wound entered the right side of his chest. The second fatal wound was caused by a bullet entering the right hip. There were non-fatal wounds on his right wrist, left bicep, right forearm, right buttocks and right hip. Three bullets were recovered in the body.

Investigators believe that a total of eight rounds were fired at the scene. Four rounds were recovered at the scene and three rounds were recovered in the body.

On Wednesday, Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry issued a narrative of the incident that said the deputies spotted Lopez, called for backup, then pulled up behind the boy. Both deputies then exited their vehicle while taking cover behind the car’s doors. Henry’s statement continues:

One of the deputies shouted at the subject to, “put the gun down.” A witness in the area reported that he heard the deputy shout two times to “put the gun down.” Initially, the subject’s back was toward the deputies. When the deputy shouted at the subject, the subject began to turn toward the deputies. One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction.

That deputy said that he feared Lopez was about to begin shooting, so he fired “several rounds,” causing Lopez to fall to the ground. The police account emphasized the similarity between the replica rifle Lopez carried, which lacked a bright-orange barrel tip common on toy weapons, and a real AK-47.

The Santa Rosa police timeline of the incident suggests the deadly episode evolved very rapidly: After the deputies spotted Lopez, dispatchers “created an incident of a suspicious person” at 3:14:15 p.m. — that is, 15 seconds after 3:14 p.m. The deputies issued a call for backup four seconds later, at 3:14:19 p.m. They reported “shots fired” just six seconds after that, at 3:14:25 p.m., and emergency medical attention was called after another 16 seconds, at 3:14:41 p.m. Here’s the verbatim account from the Santa Rosa police:

  • 1514:15 hrs – Sonoma County Sheriff’s Dispatch created an incident of a suspicious person in the area of Moorland Ave. and West Robles Ave.
  • 1514:19 hrs – The Deputies call for emergency assistance from other Deputies in the area
  • 1514:25 hrs – The Deputies notify dispatch that shots have been fired
  • 1514:41 hrs – Emergency medical advised to respond to the scene
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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.
  • Palo Jon

    Sad for the family and the cop, and more fodder for those armchair moralizers whose knees jerk at the problematic death of strangers. But after the passing outrage, and some token response from someone on the public dole, we will move on to more of the same, because we cannot, or will not, do anything about the underlying problem of guns as toys, guns as the answer to every problem, and guns as the expression of what America means, who we are, and what we truly value.

  • Rockin_Roben

    Ten seconds from the report of a suspicious person to execution of a child? Utterly appalling.

    • guest

      What’s with the use of CHILD? This is NOT a child but, I suppose, that word makes some think differently. Check out his ear rings, for one. That speaks volumes about his parents’ skills or lack thereof.

      • Rockin_Roben

        13 yrs old is a child by any definition. I suppose his race makes some think differently though. His parents skills or lack of is totally irrelevant.

      • Charles Applegate

        Note to self – wearing earrings makes people much, much older.

        The child who was killed was, undeniably, a child – he was thirteen years old.

      • palomanegra

        So, he deserves to be murdered because he has an earring?
        That makes sense….shaking head.

  • Fred

    Great kid….promising future…evil cop murdering little baby -blah de blah de blah. Maybe if his parents had taught him not to aim guns at cops he’d still be alive – but of course – no-one else could possibly have done anything wrong here!! Perfect little boy raised by awesome parents no doubt…it’s so sad that these days – not one single parent takes responsibility for the disgusting failures of upbringing that send their children to early graves. Sure – ruin a cops life because you suck as a parent.

    THAT is what I find truly appalling here. No accountability – just finger pointing and the soon to come civil lawsuit seeking millions in damages..

    • Rockin_Roben

      You sound seriously deranged.

  • Santa Rosa Group

    What is the rule of engagement in County Sheriff Department? We believe the rule of ‘Do not fire until you are fired upon’ did not apply on this case in Sonoma County. I call this a broad daylight massacre of a kid by local law enforcement.

    • Steve

      What? wait until the man holding a gun has already fired at you to shoot? After he was told twice to drop the weapon and the weapon looked real? We’d have piles of dead cops(and innocent bystanders) with that logic. Wait for a potential murder to prevent a potential murder? I call this a comment meant to spin the truth-possibly the dumbest thing I have heard all day. If your gun looks real(or you made it look real) there is no way for anyone else to know differently. by your logic/rules of engagement the officer would be laying in the street with a bullet in his head. Brilliant ‘logic’.

      • srcarruth

        the kid was not holding a gun. they gave him about 2 seconds after they yelled at him until the shot him in the side and back. they could have put a little more time into the thing. neighbors had seen the kid walking around and no one thought he had a real AK-47 except these police.

        • Steve

          first its 10 seconds, now its barely two and he wasn’t even holding the gun anymore. Any other ‘facts’ they aren’t reporting? Here’s your chance to educate. What else are we missing?

          • srcarruth

            It was a total of 10 seconds between the two radio calls from the cops. First : suspicious person, second: shots fired. In that time the deputy shouted “put it down” (or something along those lines) twice and after a brief pause he fires 8 rounds into the boy and a nearby house. The 2 seconds is an estimate of how long Andy actually had to react before he was shot. He was never holding an AK-47, he was holding a toy.

          • Steve

            a BB gun ISN’T a toy. Stop calling it a toy. The little tiny shiny plastic pistols we played with as cops and robbers as kids look nothing like this boy’s BB gun. I’ll let the parties that have the facts investigate rather than relying on ‘estimates’ from people who neither were there or have all the information.

          • srcarruth

            only three parties have these facts you seek. one of them is dead and one has a job to defend.

      • Santa Rosa family

        You are so naive! We would not buy the cop story in a second. Glad your brain is still intact. What a fool believes!

        • Steve

          Even if the cop told the truth you would not believe him so who is the fool here? Any idea why its okay for a 13 year old boy to be carrying around a BB gun modeled on an assault rifle? There are no targets in a school field.. I guess its a free for all in ‘wild west’ Santa Rosa? Any other histrionic comments you’d like to offer up?

          • srcarruth

            it was not a school field, it was an empty lot that is often used by neighborhood kids to shoot cans. there is no crime in walking around with a BB gun modeled on an AK-47

          • Steve

            Incorrect: If it was a toy-particularly if its ‘modeled’(your term) it should be marked as such with orange paint on the tip of the muzzle. This “toy” had that removed or not at all. Toys guns have since at least the 1980s had specific markings that let officers know its not a real gun. That has actually been mandated. Its law or policy. But you’ve essentially answered my earlier question. Kids do walk around in broad daylight with these types of ‘toy’ guns in Santa Rosa-and its normal. Keep calling it a toy if that makes you feel better about blaming the cop 100% for what happened. A BB gun isn’t a toy. its a GUN. And this particular GUN was meant to look like an assault rifle-without the normal marking of a toy gun-and yet you seem to find that totally meaningless. Anything else?

          • srcarruth

            carrying a BB gun in broad daylight is not a capital offense, even if it has been modified. a neighbor, a former Marine, saw the toy a few minutes earlier and knew immediately what it was. the cop let himself be overcome by fear and acted without thought.

          • Steve

            I never said it was. Don’t manipulate my words. If your ‘friend’ is a direct witness he should go and give a statement to the investigators involved. If the cop made a mistake in his judgment it will be obvious-but I don’t for a second think this cop set out to execute this kid. Debate the timeline all you want or what being 13 years old in this day and age really means: The guy that mugged my friend last year was 13 and 6 feet tall and huge. He easily knocked him down and menaced him with what? A BB gun made to ‘look’ like a handgun. Children as young as 10 years old have killed many others in gun deaths and spree shootings just in the last year. Police HAVE a good reason to be wary of random children walking the streets brandishing guns-certainly if they are made to look identical to ‘real’ assault rifles. An officer would shoot until they believe the threat is neutralized-and it seems many people in santa Rosa do not understand what that means. As far back as the early 1980s there were stories of kids-of all races/locales-being shot by cops for having/wielded everything from a squirt gun/paint gun/toy plastic pistols. Many have died-and its often ruled ‘death by misadventure’ guns should be covered when carried and not brandished, even as a joke. it seems like an ounce of prevention here would have saved a life.

      • Santa Rosa Group

        Steve,
        Sound like you are one happy sharp shooter who is looking for all the excuses for executing a kid in broad daylight. I hope you are happy .
        The kid was brutally executed in broad daylight without having a chance to response. Just image the victim was your son or one of your relatives. Sound like you have the connection with the sharp shooter officer. Why don’t you have the guts to tell at the faces of the victim family members for the justification of this brutal killing of a minor, period.

        • Steve

          Wow, lots of assumptions there-all of them wrong. And you sound like you are willing to make any excuse needed to blame the police. I think we should get rid of the guns in this country not have more of them. I don’t think a CHILD as young as 13 should even have a bb gun if HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO USE IT. When I was 7 years old I knew not to carry a gun-ANY GUN-out in public because both regular people AND cops can get the wrong idea. if you’re too foolish to see how THAT led up to the other event happening and how without it this would never have involved the police to begin with-and brought about this young man’s death-then you are too busy making excuses to see the truth.

          • Charles Applegate

            Strange – when I was eight we ran around outside with toy guns and BB guns all the time. None of us ever got shot to death within 10 seconds of being seen by a cop, either.

          • Steve

            You’re not 8 anymore-and you didn’t run around with guns that look similar if not identical to assault rifles in 2013-and you never pointed one at an armed police officer. Before you run off into strawman argument-land try and think first. This is NOTHING like when you were a kid-nothing.

          • Charles Applegate

            Speaking of straw men, Steve, Andy Lopez didn’t point his Airsoft rifle at a police officer either. Now how about you try thinking a little about the facts in evidence so far:

            -Per the police officers, the toy was in the victim’s left hand.
            -Per the police officers, one officer fired eight times.
            -Per the police officers, the other officer didn’t fire at all.
            -Per the coroner’s report, the victim was shot seven times in the back and right side.

            The available evidence suggests that the victim was turning to his right when he was shot to death; that the muzzle of the Airsoft rifle was never aimed at the officers; that the officer opened fire before he saw the muzzle; that the other officer did not see a reason to shoot; and that the officer who fired – like it or not – shot an unarmed 13 year-old child to death on the sidewalk as he walked to a friend’s house.

            You’re right about one thing, though – this is nothing like when I was a kid. When I was a kid, we ran around with bb guns that looked like real rifles – wood stocks and blued metal and scopes and everything – and none of us got shot to death by the police.

  • Pacific Guest

    The FBI should take over this investigation. Put each of the two deputies on lie detector test while questioning each subject about the execution of the minor in short 10 critical seconds. These critical 10 seconds hold all the keys to the answers.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Step One should be to review whether the officer who shot him followed police protocol – that’s written down and is what the police review themselves.
    Secondly, was protocol evenly applied to all citizens?
    Third, what changes are needed?

    I emphasize police protocol b/c in this case as in ones Ive seen in San Francisco, people, including politicians, express their dislike and outrage, but we never get to the question of what is the rulebook police are trained to follow. Even experienced politicians blow this off in their efforts to posture.

    For myself, earlier press reports said the teen wore a hoodie. Well, was it pulled over his head in a concealing fashion where he could have appeared to be been any age?
    If the officers had taken time to view the gun closer, would they have seen it was not a real firearm? Yes, it looks scarily realistic. Wouldn’t a pair of binoculars have helped and are they ever used?

  • get what you deserve

    This kid died because of being stupid. Blame him for his death NOT the deputy, damn moron people out there. You poi t an auttomatic weapon at anyone , one trigger squeeze is 5 or more rounds coming at you. You naieve people. I bet 98% of everyone on here supporting this kid , never had to deal with people threating them with a gun. In war or civil life. Altering a fake gun shows intent just to get into trouble.. that’s what he found. Move on! . A civil suit is a joke by his family. Just trying to collect money. Next time raise your damn Kids the right way. Support. Your local sheriff dept. my only post on this issue.