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.
Meanwhile, although officers have been found to be blameless, the county has been stuck paying out large sums of money to the families of victims.
The most memorable example of this occurred six years ago when deputies were found to have acted in a "legal and reasonable" way when, while trying to subdue 16-year-old Jeremiah Chass of Sebastopol, they shot and killed him. But ultimately, county supervisors agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family.
The family's lawyer said the settlement showed the steps taken prior to the teen's death were "excessive and unnecessary," but the sheriff at the time disputed that conclusion.
This time, let's let members of the public reach their own conclusions, based on what comes of the official investigation being overseen by the Santa Rosa and Petaluma police departments.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." In Sonoma County's case, it also may be the best preventative medicine for what threatens to tear us apart.