Hundreds Attend Funeral Mass For Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa
SANTA ROSA (KQED News and Wires) Hundreds of mourners filled the Resurrection Parish Church in west Santa Rosa at a mass in Spanish Tuesday for 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who died a week ago when he was shot by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy.
At 5:30 p.m., family members and friends escorted the brown casket covered with a white cloth into the church on Stony Point Road that seats around 600 people. About a dozen young people, many wearing T-shirts with Lopez’s photo, carried the casket. Mourners who couldn’t fit inside gathered at the doors to hear the service.
Sujey Lopez, Andy’s mother, never left her son’s side as she lay prostrate with grief partially on the casket with her arms outstretched and her face down.
She did not move even when one of the priests participating in the mass invited parishioners to offer each other a handshake as a sign of peace.
Andy’s father, Rodrigo Lopez, briefly shook hands with and hugged those nearby, but he too spent the entire mass at his son’s casket comforting his wife.
Both parents and many of the mourners wore white — Andy’s favorite color
When the mass ended the pall bearers, several in tears, escorted the casket as it was wheeled out of the church to a hearse from the Windsor mortuary where 1,000 people attended a viewing Sunday.
In the middle of family members and friends, Rodrigo Lopez held his wife in his arms for 10 minutes before they left.
Santa Rosa Diocese Bishop Robert Vasa sent his written condolences in English. Vasa asked the congregation to pray for those who died young, for the parents who have lost a child, and for God to keep Andy and all youth in the parish “safe in the palm of his hand.”
All five of Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors attended the funeral mass.
Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose 5th District includes Moorland and West Robles avenues where Andy was killed, said the mass showed the effect of Andy’s death on his family and members of the community.
“There is sadness and anger but a lot of support for the family,” Carrillo said. “The clergy did a beautiful job.”
“It reminds us how death brings family and the community together. We can grieve together and hope this tragedy never happens again,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo said the Board of Supervisors will start a public conversation in November about the issues that are orbiting the Lopez shooting — the presence of guns, manufacture of toy guns that look authentic and the relationship between the community and law enforcement.
Humberto Ballesteros came because his daughter was friends with Lopez. He says like much of the community he wants to support the Lopez family and is organizing a benefit concert.
“Even if they don’t know that we’re helping them, we’re going to let them know that we’re still behind them. There are a lot of people behind them.”
Santa Rosa police, who are investigating the fatal Oct. 22 shooting, said Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Andy seven times because the airsoft BB rifle the boy was carrying looked like a real AK-47 assault rifle.
Andy was told twice to drop the rifle, Santa Rosa police said.
The barrel of the rifle raised up as Andy turned toward the two deputies who had taken cover behind the front doors of their patrol car, Santa Rosa police said.
Gelhaus feared for his life, his partner’s life and members of the community at the scene, Santa Rosa police said.
Andy died at the scene. A toy plastic handgun was found in his waistband.
Earlier in Santa Rosa Tuesday, more than 1,000 people marched at a rally to protest the shooting of Lopez.
The protesters, including middle- and high-school-age students and members of the Occupy movement, assembled in downtown Santa Rosa before marching through streets with signs and hooded sweatshirts bearing photos of the boy.
“Andy Lopez did not have to die,” they chanted during the nearly three-hour, mostly peaceful demonstration. No arrests were made.
The protest was large for Santa Rosa, Paul Gullixson, editorial director of the Press Democrat, told KQED’s Mina Kim.
“I’ve just never seen anything like that. But I think the frustration, the emotion is really high. They’re just trying to get their heads around what it was that motivated this deputy to fire the shots.”
Mike Fuentes, who has been participating in the marches and protests since Andy’s death, said another rally is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday. A march from the Roseland area of Santa Rosa and City Hall will follow.
“It’s a shame it took this type of event to bring the community together,” Fuentes said, calling the marches, rallies vigils and public reaction to the fatal shooting “historical and powerful.”
After the evening’s mass, Cecilia Martinez of Santa Rosa was in tears. She said she can’t image her 14-year-old boy dying in such an incident.
She said her son has a Star Wars light saber but no toy guns.
“We have to go after the manufacturers. Make all the toy guns bright florescent colors. How many more have to die before there’s a law?”