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Lopez attorney: Sheriff's office 'encourages' use of deadly force

  • Vincent Caedoza, left, decorates a large alter constructed at the memorial site for 13-year-old Andy Lopez who was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy near the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues in Santa Rosa on Friday, November 1, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The family made similar allegations in a tort claim filed Thursday with the county. In that claim, Casillas alleged the "sheriff's department's training encourages deputies to prematurely shoot suspects who pose no threat or danger to deputies or the public at large."

Sheriff Steve Freitas said Friday that he could not comment on the claim and referred all questions about it to County Counsel Bruce Goldstein.

"I can't talk about the claims or any questions that are arising out of the claims," Freitas said.

Protest Over Andy Lopez Killing 10.30.13

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Goldstein called the federal lawsuit "premature" and he dismissed some of the claim's allegations as legal "hyperbole."

Under tort law, someone planning to sue a government agency must first file a claim with the agency, giving it time to resolve the matter before going to court, Goldstein said. To file a civil lawsuit only days after filing a tort claim is troubling, he said.

"To be doing civil litigation before a criminal investigation is complete has the potential of interfering with the conduct of the full criminal investigation by the Santa Rosa Police Department and the District Attorney's Office," Goldstein said.

"There are statements in the claim that are outrageous and probably attorney hyperbole to make a point," he said. "But it does a disservice to the dialogue going on where people are trying to, in good faith, understand what happened and how to prevent such occurrences in the future."

The legal action comes less than two weeks after Lopez was shot seven times while walking through a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood carrying an airsoft BB gun that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle.

The Santa Rosa Police Department is doing a criminal investigation of the shooting, while the Sheriff's Office is conducting its own internal affairs review. Casillas said he expects little from those investigations.

"We really have very little confidence in the investigation that the City of Santa Rosa is doing," Casillas said, adding that he's interviewed several witnesses that had not yet been interviewed by police.


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