Third Fatal Officer involved shooting in Sonoma County in one month
By Martin Espinoza
SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT
October 22, 2013, 3:42 PM
Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a 13-year-old boy Tuesday afternoon during an encounter in a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood.
The boy’s father, Rodrigo Lopez, identified the teen as Andy Lopez and said he had been carrying a toy gun that belonged to a friend.
Santa Rosa and Petaluma police detectives are investigating the shooting. Interviews were conducted throughout Tuesday night, Santa Rosa Lt. Paul Henry said Wednesday morning.
Police officials were meeting Wednesday morning to get debriefed on the investigation and then planned to release more information, Henry said.
Sheriff’s officials early Wednesday declined to comment on the case, referring questions to Santa Rosa police.
The names of the deputies involved also haven’t been released. They’ve been placed on administrative leave, which is standard in such cases.
It was unclear Tuesday whether the rifle, which sheriff’s officials characterized as a replica, was capable of firing BBs or other projectiles.
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 family had just returned home at about 9:15 p.m. from identifying Andy Lopez’s body.
The boy’s mother, Sujey Annel Cruz Cazarez, was grief-stricken in the living room.
“Why did they kill him? Why?” she said.
At 3 p.m., two sheriff’s deputies patrolling in the area of Moorland and West Robles avenues observed Lopez walking with what sheriff’s officials said appeared to be some type of rifle.
The deputies called for backup and repeatedly ordered the boy to drop the rifle, Sheriff’s Lt. Dennis O’Leary said in a news release.
At some point after the deputies told Lopez to drop the rifle, they fired several rounds from their handguns at the boy, who was hit multiple times, O’Leary said.
After telling Lopez to move away from the rifle, deputies approached the unresponsive teen as he lay on the ground and handcuffed him before administering first aid and calling for medical assistance, O’Leary said.
Lopez was later pronounced dead at the scene. Neither deputy was injured, said Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Brown. Sheriff’s officials did not release the names of the deputies Tuesday, but said both had been placed on administrative leave.
After securing the scene, deputies discovered the rifle the teen was carrying was a replica of an assault weapon, O’Leary said. Deputies also found a plastic handgun in the teen’s waistband.
The shooting took place at the edge of a field. The area was cordoned off for hours with yellow police tape. An ambulance and numerous patrol cars from both the Santa Rosa Police Department and Sheriff’s Office surrounded the area.
Moorland Avenue was initially closed from West Robles to Corby avenues.
Neither the Sheriff’s Office, nor the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is leading the investigation into the shooting, would release the boy’s name Tuesday.
Eduardo Diaz, a friend of Rodrigo Lopez, said Tuesday evening that he received a phone call and learned the boy was dead.
Diaz said the boy’s family lived near the corner of Todd Road and Moorland Avenue. The family said the boy recently attended Cook Middle School but had transferred to another school.
Moorland Avenue was blocked at Todd Road late Tuesday night.
At a little after 9 p.m., a police investigator’s SUV pulled up to the family’s home, a mobile home located on a property that has at least two other homes.
The boy’s mother, distraught and in tears, came out of the SUV accompanied by someone who appeared to be a family member.
She walked back to her home escorted by police investigators. Neighbors said she had been taken to identify the body of her son.
Two law enforcement chaplains arrived soon afterward. The mother’s cries could be heard from the dark driveway as the chaplains walked back to the residence in the rear of the property.
It was unclear Tuesday whether the weapon recovered at the scene was an operational pellet or BB gun. Lopez’s family called the gun a “toy,” but the Sheriff’s Department’s news release called it only a “replica” of an assault rifle.
There are dozens of Airsoft guns on the market designed to look like real assault rifles but are electric and fire plastic, nonlethal projectiles similar to BBs.
The gun recovered at the scene closely resembled an AK-47 style rifle, a replica of which can be purchased online for as little as $34.99 for a plastic version or more than $200 for ones with real metal and wood.
Such guns are often used recreationally, similar to paintball guns.
Ian Davis, who lives on Moorland Avenue, just north of West Robles Avenue, was on his way home, driving north on Moorland, when he encountered a sheriff’s patrol car parked in the southbound lane of Moorland, the front of the car pointed in the opposite direction of traffic. Two sheriff’s deputies were crouched and taking cover behind the driver’s side and passenger side front doors.
Davis turned right on West Robles, drove to the end of the street and then turned around and drove back to the intersection of West Robles and began shooting video of the scene.
Davis said he likely pulled up moments after the shots were fired because he could see someone lying on the ground, several yards in front of the patrol car.
In his video, Davis can be heard saying, “Police standoff … gunpoint. He said, ‘Don’t reach for the rifle.’”
Moments later, Davis says, “I don’t want to be here, actually. I need to get out of here. I’m in the line of fire.”
As Davis quickly crosses Moorland to get away from the scene, the video shows two sheriff’s deputies taking cover near their patrol car. In front of the patrol car, a body lies partially on the sidewalk and in a field of dry grass.
The shooting took place just as neighborhood residents were on their way home from work and school. Others were home when they heard gunfire.
“First I heard a single siren and within seconds I heard seven shots go off, sounded like a nail gun, is what I thought it was,” said Brian Zastrow, a resident on Horizon Way. “After that I heard multiple sirens.”
Tuesday’s incident was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Sonoma County this year. In February, Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Richard Shreckengaust, 37, of Novato following a pursuit that ended near Guerneville.
In June, Windsor police officers shot and killed Urbano Moreno Morales, 48, near the Windsor Town Green after he stabbed and wounded his 60-year-old former domestic partner and approached them wielding a knife.
The investigation into Tuesday’s shooting will be handled by the Santa Rosa and Petaluma Police departments, as well as the District Attorney’s Office, sheriff’s officials said.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm did not return calls late Tuesday seeking comment.
Staff Writers Kevin McCallum and Julie Johnson contributed to this report.