Gullixson: A death that drives us to our knees

  • Sujey Lopez and her husband Rodrigo Lopez mourn for their son by a memorial setup at the site where 13-year-old son Andy Lopez was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Tuesday afternoon near the corner of Moorland and West Robles avenues in Santa Rosa, October 23, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Did a little piece of orange plastic cost 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa his life?

Rather, was it a missing piece of plastic — one about the size of a fingertip — that was the difference?

You know what I'm talking about, those plastic "muzzle" caps that go on the ends of toy guns to make it clear that they are not the real deal. The caps have been required under federal law for 25years, mandated since the late 1980s to stem a rising tide of crimes being committed with toy guns.

Thus, BB guns like the one Andy was carrying as he walked down a sidewalk toward a friend's house in southwest Santa Rosa at 3:14 p.m. on Tuesday are required to come with plastic caps.

But it wasn't there when the young man turned toward two sheriff's deputies who had pulled up behind him.

And now Andy isn't here either.

Whether it was a piece of plastic or something else, what we do know is that the difference in this life-or-death moment was something small.

A turn of the body. The raising of a gun barrel. A twitch of a finger on a trigger.

And it all happened in the course of 10 seconds. Ten tragic seconds.

That was all the time, according to a chronology of events released by Santa Rosa police Thursday, that elapsed between the moment the deputies called dispatch to report a suspicious person with a rifle to the time they called back to report shots being fired.

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