PD Editorial: The power of light and transparency

  • Law enforcement investigators cover the body of a person shot and killed by officers near the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. The teen or young man was spotted carrying what appeared to be a handgun and a rifle shortly after 3 p.m. by deputies on patrol. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

A week after the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa, emotions continue to run high — for understandable reasons.

There are still no better explanations for why Lopez was shot by a deputy who reportedly believed that the BB gun he was carrying — a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle — was real.

Three investigations are now underway, including one by the FBI, which notified staff of Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm of its involvement on Friday. A federal spokesman has identified this as a "civil-rights-type of case."

Such a probe by the FBI is rare but welcome. It assures more eyes on the details of what transpired at the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues on Oct. 22 at 3:14 p.m. But it doesn't assure more information will be shared with the public.

Meanwhile, protests and vigils have continued and more community events are planned this week, including a protest and march to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office today.

We applaud those who encourage protesters to show their emotions, to raise their voices but to continue to demonstrate safety and nonviolence. Santa Rosa doesn't need more tragedies.

We're also encouraged that Sonoma County officials are making an appeal for healing and restraint as well.

"Sonoma County has historically placed a strong emphasis on building robust relationships," Supervisor David Rabbit and Freitas wrote in a Close to Home we published on Monday. "Today, some of those relationships are now strained, and we acknowledge the impact to our community's trust with law enforcement, a sentiment clearly expressed by recent demonstrations." Responsibility of "repairing and strengthening" those community bonds, they said, "is ours together."

Here's a suggestion for how to rebuild that trust. Commit now to releasing the full investigative report on this shooting.

Much of the community distrust is rooted in the fact that not only have similar past investigations cleared officers of any wrong doing, little but the most general of information about the investigations has found its way into public light.

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