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Burned Andy Lopez memorial rebuilt 'bigger, better, stronger'

  • Vince Campos helps put the final touches on the newly rebuilt Andy Lopez Memorial along Moorland Avenue in Santa Rosa on Sunday, January 5, 2014. A fire burnt down the memorial early Thursday morning. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

There was never a question about rebuilding the fire-ravaged memorial to Andy Lopez on a southwest Santa Rosa lot where the 13-year-old boy was slain on Oct. 22.

"It was a matter of everyone coming together to get it done," Nicole Guerra said Sunday morning at the site on Moorland Avenue.

About 100 people worked on Saturday to reconstruct the makeshift shrine, restoring a tent-covered structure around an altar for Lopez, who was fatally shot by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy.

Andy Lopez Memorial Site Rebuilt

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"Bigger, better, stronger," said Jamie Cairo of Santa Rosa, describing the memorial with white, freshly painted shelves holding flowers, mementos and photos of Lopez.

Repairs began on Thursday, following an early morning fire attributed to candles burning within the memorial, and Guerra said she put out word for the reconstruction to commence at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The new memorial rests on concrete blocks, and fire-proof panels will be added to the structure, said Josha Stark, the impromptu foreman.

Lopez's family asked that the altar remain at the center of the memorial, and neighborhood youths made some suggestions, as well, Stark said.

Stark, a Bennett Valley builder with an 11-month-old daughter, said he would want the same community support "if this happened to my child."

Lopez was walking along on a sidewalk on the east side of the lot when he was shot by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a 24-year Sheriff's Office veteran. Gelhaus told police he thought the boy's airsoft gun -#8212; which looked like an AK-47 assault rifle -#8212; was a deadly weapon.

Protesters have repeatedly demanded prosecution of Gelhaus, and a large sign in the memorial says: "Sonoma County Sheriffs you have broken our hearts."


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