Protesters carried an image of Andy Lopez as they marched Oct. 29, 2013, in Santa Rosa, Calif.
(Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)
Hours before the funeral of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, hundreds of students and other protesters marched through Santa Rosa, Calif., on Tuesday, a week after a sheriff's deputy killed the eighth-grader as he carried a pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle.
Sonoma County offices and some city businesses closed early in anticipation of the rally and march, which was expected to draw up to 1,500 people, some from the San Francisco area and Central Valley, authorities and organizers said.
Amid a heavy police presence, protesters marched peacefully from the county courthouse in downtown Santa Rosa to the local junior college and then on to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, where a rally was set for midafternoon.
Deputies in riot gear stood behind metal barriers outside the sheriff's office as demonstrators shouted at them. Other deputies armed with rifles were perched on the roof.
Protesters carried signs declaring, "We are all Andy Lopez," "Andy did not have to die" and "Jail all racist killer cops," according to news reports.
"We want the cops to know that he wasn't supposed to die," a classmate of Andy'stold the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
"This officer should be prosecuted for murder ... clearly this was murder," John Burris, a noted Oakland civil rights attorney, told the rally. He helped secure a $1.5 million settlement for the family of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in 2009.
Andy was shot dead Oct. 22 about 3:15 p.m. as he walked to a friend's house wearing a hoodie and carrying an AK-47-style airsoft gun without the normal orange tip indicating a replica, authorities said.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Lance Badger displayed an AK-47 assault rifle, left, next to a replica airsoft pellet gun carried by Andy Lopez, 13, when he was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy Oct. 22, 2013.(Photo: John Burgess, The Press Democrat/EPA)
Two deputies reported that they repeatedly ordered him to drop his weapon, and one then fired eight shots when the youth turned toward them. Seven bullets hit Andy within 26 seconds, two of them delivering fatal wounds, an autopsy found.
The 24-year deputy, Erick Gelhaus, a firearms instructor, gun writer and Iraq War veteran, said he fired because he feared for his life. He has been placed on paid administrative leave. His partner, a recently hired, 11-year police veteran, did not fire and has not been identified.
Local authorities and the FBI are investigating the killing.
"As a father of two boys about this age, I can't begin to imagine the grief this family is going through," Sheriff Steve Freitas said a day after the shooting. "This is a tragedy on many levels ... for the terrible loss of Andy Lopez, his family, the family's loved ones, friends, our community, and the members of the sheriff's office.
"My hope is that we can work with the community to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future," he said.
Andy's funeral was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.