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Push for park in memory of Andy Lopez grows

  • Protesters and local leaders are calling for a park in memory of Andy Lopez in the empty lot at Moorland and West Robles avenues where Lopez was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Momentum continues to grow for the construction of a memorial park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where 13-year-old Andy Lopez grew up and was shot dead.

The Sonoma County Supervisors are expected to vote Tuesday on a number of possible actions in response to the shooting, including exploring the creation of a park in Lopez's name.

Meanwhile, his supporters continue to stake their claim to the site where on Oct. 22 Lopez was shot by Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus after the veteran law enforcement officer reportedly mistook the boy's airsoft BB gun for an AK-47 assault rifle. In the most recent action, Lopez supporters have planted a young oak tree near at the site, which also hosts small playground toys and a large wooden memorial decked in flowers.

“I think it's a great step forward in the healing process for our community that our local politicians are taking an active interest in trying to build a park,” said Brian Bushon, a resident of the subdivision just north of the empty lot where Lopez died.

Bushon, who has supplied several playground toys at the site, has been lobbying county supervisors to make the park a reality. “A good community has a good park within walking distance,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to direct county officials to “report back in 60 days with plan and financing recommendations to create a park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood dedicated to Andy Lopez.”

The park-related action is part of a larger agenda item of possible board actions that stem from a Nov. 5 public hearing on the shooting. Proposed actions include creating a community and local law enforcement task force; supporting state and federal legislation on gun and replica weapon control; exploring law enforcement training for alternatives to lethal force.

Other actions include exploring the cost and feasibility of providing law enforcement officials with lapel cameras and conducting town hall meetings next year to discuss such topics as neighborhood violence, social equity and justice, and law enforcement tactics in different communities.

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