Protesters turned out by the hundreds and marched on Tuesday to rally against last week’s deadly shooting of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old boy carrying the toy AK-47, by a Northern California deputy sheriff. They ended up in a chance meeting which has ignited outrage all across the community and even started an investigation by the FBI.
Some police officers were mounted on the tops of roofs while others wore helmets and stood at guard at blockades while the town protesters assembled outside the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office located in the town of Santa Rosa in honor of Andy’s memory.
The demonstrators, which including both high-school and middle-school age students and supporters of the Occupy Oakland crusade all assembled in downtown Santa Rosa. They then began to march through the town streets carrying hoodies and signs which had pictures of the young teen on them.
They chanted over and over, “Andy did not have to die.” The demonstration lasted for almost three hours. It was a nonviolent protest march and there were no arrests made.
Lopez’s funeral also happened on Tuesday. He was shot and killed on Oct. 22 by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, of Sonoma County. The deputy sheriff was a firearms trainer who, investigators stated, misidentified a pellet gun that was being handled by Lopez for a real assault rifle.
The police added that the teen refused to obey Gelhaus, who gave him multiple orders to drop his gun and was instead moving around to face the deputy and also raising the toy guy’s barrel when the young teen was shot numerous times.
The occurrence is still under examination by Sonoma County prosecutors, the Santa Rosa police, and even the FBI.
Victor Manieri, age 15, who is a student at Elsie Allen High School, took off from school early in the day to be able to join the protest. He said he knew who Andy was and that he wanted to show his personal support for Lopez’s family.
He explained that he disagreed with what the deputy sheriff did to Lopez. Manieri added that he believed there were other ways the teen could have been dealt with, such as using a Taser.
Mitzi Reyes, age 16, who also attends the same school as Manieri, went to the protest with her younger brothers and her mother. She explained that her entire family knew Andy.
She stated that she was at the protest because she wanted to see justice not only for Lopez but also for other people that might have been shot by mistake.
Lopez’s shooting has produced several demonstrations in Santa Rosa, which is located around 50 miles northwest of San Francisco. During Sunday afternoon, over 1,000 individuals showed up for a special service that was dedicated to Lopez’s memory.
Lorenzo Duenas, who is the Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff, stated that Gelhaus, age 48, has been with Sonoma County as a firearms coach and range master for nearly 20 years. He has also trained his law enforcement contemporaries in the use of force. He is only one of 26 such teachers for the county of Sonoma.
Lopez’s family was still grieving very deeply, but were grateful for all the protesters in the rally that came out and showed support after their boy was killed.
By Kimberly Ruble