Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry gave an initial outline of the encounter to a roomful of reporters at the Finley Community Center on Wednesday afternoon. He also focused his remarks on the dangerous likeness between the airsoft gun and the assault-style weapon after which it's modeled.
"The deputy's mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot," said Henry, whose department is investigating the shooting.
The BB gun, designed to closely resemble its deadly cousin, was in Lopez's hand when two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies on routine patrol spotted the youth walking Tuesday afternoon on Moorland Avenue, Henry said.
The deputies pulled up behind Lopez, got out and called out to the boy to drop the gun, with their weapons drawn and from the cover of their open doors, he said.
Lopez, who had been walking on the sidewalk and carrying the BB gun in his left hand, turned toward the deputy and his partner, raising the barrel of the gun toward them, Henry said. Lopez was 20 to 30 feet from the deputies.
One deputy fired several shots at Lopez within seconds of calling out the commands, Henry said. At least one shot struck the boy and he fell to the ground.
Henry did not say how many shots were fired, how many shots struck Lopez or where he was hit. An autopsy is scheduled for today, he said.
On a table beside the podium at the Finley Center, a Santa Rosa police official unzipped two black cases and held up two guns for the group to see.
One was a real AK-47-style rifle. The other was the plastic airsoft gun Lopez carried on a sidewalk at the edge of an empty lot in southwest Santa Rosa.
The firearm and airsoft rifle appeared remarkably similar, with matching black banana clips and brown stocks.
Yet in the light of the Finley Center the model Lopez carried was clearly plastic with a transparent center section. The BB gun also had a shorter barrel. Henry noted that the orange or red tip often found on toy guns appeared to be missing from the model Lopez carried.
Henry said investigators were still piecing together each step of the encounter through interviews with the deputies, neighborhood witnesses, dispatchers and other personnel.
The incident began just before 3:15 p.m. when the deputies radioed for backup and stopped to contact the boy. It appears they weren't aware he was a juvenile, Henry said.
The airsoft weapon was in Lopez's left hand as he walked north on Moorland, Henry said. Henry said there was no language barrier that would have prevented Lopez from understanding the deputies.
Lopez was walking from his home to the residence of a close friend, Luis Diaz, also 13, when he was spotted by the deputies. Diaz said he also has an airsoft gun, which fires small plastic BBs.
The gun that Lopez carried was an airsoft that belonged to another friend, according to Diaz. He said the last time Lopez used the gun, "it fell and like the whole front of it broke in half so you could see the wires coming out ... You could tell it's fake, easily."
Lopez was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and shorts and carrying the BB gun in his left hand, which was at his side, Henry said.