Large, peaceful protest of Andy Lopez killing winds through Santa Rosa

  • Marchers young and old parade down Mendocino Avenue in downtown Santa Rosa, California on their way to the Sonoma County Sheriffs' Office to protest the shooting death of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old boy gunned down by Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhous on Tuesday. October 29, 2013. Photo: Erik Castro/for the Press Democrat.

One week earlier, at almost the identical time of day, sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot and killed Lopez on a sidewalk in southwest Santa Rosa. The teen was carrying an airsoft gun, which shoots plastic BBs. Police said the deputy mistook the gun for an AK-47 assault rifle.

Protesters said criminal charges should be levied against the deputy.

"This officer should be prosecuted for murder," said John Burris, one of the Oakland attorneys who negotiated a $1.5 million settlement for the family of Oscar Grant, the man killed in a 2009 shooting by a BART police officer.

Protest Over Andy Lopez Killing 10.29.13


Burris said the deputies approached Lopez incorrectly, leading to his death.

"To tell him to put the gun down was confusing, because he did not have a gun," he told the crowd at a rally outside the Sheriff's Office. "Clearly this is murder."

The death has prompted almost daily vigils and protests. Tuesday's demonstration was advertised on social media and fliers posted in Spanish and English around Santa Rosa.

An odd disquiet permeated the city's heart around lunchtime as some businesses closed amid fears of an outbreak of violence. A TV news helicopter circled high overhead, joined by the sheriff's helicopter, Henry-1.

Rochelle Rutherford brought her son, Alex Cordero, a junior at Elsie Allen High. She'd given him permission to miss school for the march. She also brought her 3-year-old son, Darrian Rutherford, who rode in a red wagon painted with the message, "Justice for Andy."

"It's unbelievable the amount of grief I feel, and it's not even my child," Rutherford said of Lopez.

Demonstrators initially set off on the sidewalk and observed pedestrian signals as they began the 2?-mile route from Old Courthouse Square to the Sheriff's Office. But by the time they reached Fifth Street a block away, the crowd had spilled onto Mendocino Avenue. Organizers attempted to keep people out of harm's way from oncoming traffic, assisted by Santa Rosa police officers on motorcycles.

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