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Potluck marks anniversary of Andy Lopez's death

  • Susan Chunco, center, shares homemade cookies during a potluck at the memorial site near where Andy Lopez was killed. Rue Furch is on the right. (CONNER JAY/ PD)

Standing just yards from the spot where 13-year-old Andy Lopez was killed, Jeremiah Wood on Sunday raised a soapy plastic tube to his lips and blew a long string of bubbles.

“I'm making mine like a choo-choo train,” said Wood, 5, a kindergartner at Binkley Elementary School in Rincon Valley. “This is a cool bubble machine.”

The youngster was among about 100 people attending an outdoor potluck marking the two-month anniversary of Lopez's death.

They gathered in the field adjacent to the Moorland Avenue sidewalk where Lopez was walking when he was fatally shot Oct. 22 by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

Gelhaus told police he mistook a BB gun Lopez was carrying for an AK-47 assault rifle and fired he saw Lopez — his back to the deputy — begin to turn toward him, the barrel of the BB gun rising.

Critics have questioned the deputy's reaction, saying he acted hastily in his use of deadly force.

In numerous protest marches and demonstrations, they have called on District Attorney Jill Ravitch to bring criminal charges against Gelhaus at the completion of a police investigation.

Meanwhile, a shrine of pictures, candles and other memorabilia has grown in the field near where Lopez fell. Efforts are ongoing to buy the land to make a public park.

Protesters on Sunday took a break from the frequent rallies and meetings to share a meal together and get to know each other.

They laid out platters of sandwiches, pastries and traditional Mexican foods such as posole on tables under a large awning.

Kids played on plastic recreational equipment and kicked soccer balls nearby.

Members of Lopez's family were expected to attend.

“The whole reason for this is to get together as a community and get to know the person you are standing next to,” said organizer Nicole Guerra. “Talk to the kids who knew Andy. Get a memory out of them.”

Earlier in the day, talk for many centered on the investigation and a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the Lopez family.

Some continued to press for a citizens review board to look at officer involved shootings. Others urged authorities to put the deputy on trial.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Santa Rosa resident Montana Podva said.

Tom Bonfigli of Sebastopol said it is important to continue to support the family while paying homage to the fallen youth.

“I'm hoping something good will come of it,” Bonfigli said. “I'm not sure what that will be. But justice unites us.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com

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