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PD Editorial: No need for toys that cost children's lives

  • Santa Rosa Police Lt. Lance Badger holds an actual AK-47, right, next to a replica Airsoft carried by Andy Lopez, 13, when he was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy on Tuesday. The guns were displayed during a press conference in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Two cops patrolling a neighborhood, a 13-year-old boy with a toy gun and a tragedy.

Here in Sonoma County, where a deputy sheriff shot Andy Lopez to death, people are asking why and, equally important, how to ensure it never happens again. But it already did.

Andy Lopez was again.

A little less than three years ago, people asked these questions in Los Angeles after police shot a 13-year-old boy holding a pellet gun. Rohayent Gomez survived, but he was left paralyzed.

He was playing on a street with two other teenagers, firing their pellet guns at one another. The boys ran when a police car pulled over.

Officer Victor Abarca spotted Gomez hiding behind a bus. He shined a flashlight on him and ordered him to surrender. Abarca saw the pellet gun and fired once, striking Gomez in the chest.

Police described the toy as "indistinguishable" from a Beretta handgun. It did, however, have the orange tip required by federal law for toy firearms. The tip was missing from the AK-47 replica BB gun carried by Andy Lopez. We don't know if it was removed on purpose or broken. Either way, it may have cost Andy his life.

In Los Angeles, Abarca was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, but a jury returned a $24 million civil verdict against the Police Department.

After the shooting, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck got behind legislation to add<QA0>

BB guns and pellet guns to a state law requiring replica firearms sold in California to be brightly colored or translucent, so it's obvious at a glance that they aren't the real thing.

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