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Dozens of youths march to protest Andy Lopez death, deliver letter

A group of about 50 people marched from Santa Rosa City Hall to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department without incident Friday evening in the latest demonstration protesting the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

Organized by young people calling themselves Andy's Youth, protesters hoped to show that demonstrations don't need to provoke confrontations with law enforcement like the one at the Dec. 10 City Council meeting.

"We're just trying to be peaceful," said one of the organizers, 15-year-old Lisbet Mendoza.

Lopez was shot and killed Oct. 22 by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus as the teen walked along Moorland Avenue carrying a plastic BB gun designed to look like an AK-47 rifle. Gelhaus reportedly mistook the gun for a real assault weapon.

Holding candles and wearing white shirts emblazoned with images of Lopez, the protesters marched mostly in silence up Mendocino Avenue. They held signs such as "Justice 4 Andy" and "Citizen Review Panels" and carried a large letter written to "The Sheriff."

The letter writers expressed hope that Gelhaus is charged with murder in the shooting. Santa Rosa Police are conducting a criminal investigation, and District Attorney Jill Ravitch will ultimately decide whether to file charges against Gelhaus.

Protesters Friday left the letter and candles in the shape of a cross in front of the Sheriff's Department as armed deputies watched from a distance.

The event was markedly different from the Dec. 10 rally where organizers shouting slogans into bullhorns urged protesters bearing white crosses to enter a City Council filled with Santa Rosa police officers honoring Chief Tom Schwedhelm, who is retiring.

The meeting was suspended and one man, Ramon Armando Aguirre Cairo, 30, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a sergeant with a sign as he tried to enter the chambers. He faces up to up to seven years in prison.

Later that evening, deputies in riot gear and handling police dogs awaited the protesters when they arrived at the Sheriff's Department.


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