13-Year-Old Carrying Toy Rifle Shot Dead by Cali. Police
Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies in northern California shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez while he walked home from school Tuesday afternoon carrying a toy rifle.
According to Lt. Dennis O’Leary, two deputies on patrol spotted a “male subject” walking in the area carrying what they believed to be a rifle, at which point they called for backup and told him to drop the weapon.
“At some point immediately thereafter, the deputies fired several rounds from their handguns at the subject, striking him several times,” O’Leary said, adding that Lopez fell down and “landed on top of the rifle he was carrying.” But they didn’t stop there. Though Lopez was unresponsive and bleeding out, the officers handcuffed him before administering first aid and calling the paramedics. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting is being investigated by Santa Rosa police, Petaluma police and the Sonoma County district Attorney’s office.
Based on the police account, which is rather vague, it doesn’t appear as though the officers gave Lopez much of an opportunity to drop the toy gun and it’s still unclear whether Lopez ever pointed the gun at the officers or made any other gestures that may have been perceived as threatening enough to warrant deadly force. It also remains to be seen exactly how many times the deputies shot Lopez. One neighbor told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that he heard police fire seven shots.
Lopez was a popular eighth grader at Cook Middle School in Santa Rosa up until last Friday, when he transferred to Lewis Opportunity School. He played the trumpet in the school band and enjoyed playing basketball. Those who knew him are devastated, grieving and want answers, especially his parents:
Rodrigo Lopez said the last time he saw his son was Tuesday morning before he left for work.
“I told him what I tell him every day,” he said in Spanish, standing in the doorway of his mobile home near Moorland Avenue and Todd Road. “Behave yourself.”
The boy’s mother, Sujey Annel Cruz Cazarez, was grief-stricken in the living room.
“Why did they kill him? Why?” she said.
The Sheriff has called the shooting a “tragedy“. However, there are many young boys and girls out there who have replica or toy guns. Imagine if police responded to all of them the way they did to Andy Lopez, which raises questions about whether or not race played a factor in the decision to shoot.
Would the deputies have so quickly assumed it was a real gun had Lopez been white instead of Hispanic? Just a though to ponder.