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Whether the sentiment is justified or not, many residents here say they have long endured the heavy hand of law enforcement. They say the blows have come in routine traffic stops, the impoundment of their cars, the deportation of relatives and the detention of their children on curbs for seemingly no reason.

At 3:14 p.m. Tuesday, they say, a new line was crossed. That was when two sheriff's deputies spotted Lopez and reported to dispatchers a suspicious person. Ten seconds later, the eighth-grader was shot dead on a sidewalk a half-mile north of his current Moorland Avenue home, near the intersection with West Robles Avenue.

The vacant field adjacent to the sidewalk where he died was the neighborhood's de facto park, its dried grass and weeds ankle-high and strewn with candy bar wrappers and empty juice cartons.

Santa Rosa police said the veteran deputy opened fire when he saw Lopez turning toward him with the barrel of his BB gun raised. The deputy mistook the BB gun for an assault rifle, investigators said.

Of the eight rounds fired by the deputy, seven hit the boy and two were fatal, according to preliminary autopsy results.

Citing death threats, authorities have so far declined to identify the deputies involved in the shooting.

Many details about the encounter are unknown, but local officials already have pronounced it a tragedy. It has prompted a number investigations, with Santa Rosa police in the lead among local agencies and the FBI now pursuing its own inquiry.

Among longtime advocates for police oversight, the shooting has reopened calls for civilian review of fatal officer-involved incidents.

But the strongest outcry has emanated from this working-class neighborhood, where it is clear that the shooting has exposed and deepened a rift of distrust of law enforcement, one widened by divisions in race, ethnicity and class, some say, and represented last week in an unprecedented series of protests, vigils and marches that crisscrossed Santa Rosa.

The events are set to continue this week, including a memorial wake today in Windsor, and on Tuesday another large protest and march from downtown to Santa Rosa Junior College and on to the Sheriff's Office.

Among the hundreds of people who have participated, many are parents and schoolchildren, nearly all of them Latino. Their ire has been focused especially on the Sheriff's Office, the face of law enforcement in the neighborhood.

A message posted in the field along Moorland and held aloft in marches was particularly symbolic: "Wanted 4 Murder. Sonoma County Sheriff."

"A 13-year-old boy was blasted to death. Anger is the correct response to that," said Davin Cardenas, a resident of Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood, just to the north, and a lead organizer with the North Bay Organizing Project, a coalition that includes immigration, labor and community activists.

"I don't know what's to become of it and I don't know that we're in a position to funnel it," Cardenas said of the outrage. "And I don't know that we should be at this point."

Law enforcement officials acknowledge the outcry but have questioned whether it represents a significant breakdown in their relationship with the Latino community in general or specifically Lopez' neighborhood.

Sheriff Freitas called it a "normal part of the grieving process."

Now in his third year in elected office, the sheriff has sought to make inroads with the Latino community, revising policies on immigration holds and vehicle impoundments. He disavowed any connection between the shooting and race. "I don't believe this event was racially motivated in any way," he said.

"If it has created any divisions, I'm willing to work on it in the future," he added.

Freitas is running for re-election next year.

"Hopefully, with some of the work I've done there's enough trust out there in the community that people are willing to work with me on that," he said.

Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, whose department patrols the neighborhoods to the north of Bellevue Avenue, where Moorland ends, said it was too early to assess the long-term fallout from the shooting.

"I would think that's somewhat of a premature question," he said. "I believe people are reacting to this incident. There's a lot of raw emotion and anger out there."

Sympathy for law enforcement and the situation two sheriff's deputies faced Tuesday in their encounter with Lopez exists in the same community that's voicing outrage.

Jose Mandujano Pe?, a Santa Rosa father of two teenage girls, said he is trying to see the conflict from all sides. "I want to put myself in the shoes of the deputies. They need to protect their own lives," he said.

Like others, he touched on the debate the shooting has sparked in many households, about the stark similarity of some modern pellet and BB guns with real assault rifles and the dilemma that poses to police and parents.

As the debate rages, Mandujano voiced a universal sentiment shared in dozens of interviews with residents, law enforcement and elected leaders across Sonoma County this week: "The saddest thing about this is that the life of a child was lost," he said.

Andy Lopez was born in Sonoma County and raised along with three siblings by parents who came from Sonora, Mexico about 20 years ago.

He attended Bellevue Elementary, in a south Santa Rosa school district that has the highest percentage of students living in poverty of any of the 40 districts in the county. More than 96 percent qualify for a free or reduced lunch. More than two-thirds of the students are considered English-language learners, and over 80 percent last year were Latino.

Community leaders say it is an area long overlooked.

"It's not an unknown that this community feels disconnected, disenfranchised," said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who represents the area.

Also a son of Mexican immigrants, Carrillo was one of several elected leaders to join the crowd in nighttime vigils last week at the shooting scene. He said the challenge confronting county and law enforcement officials appears daunting.

"What I'm seeing and hearing is a community in pain, a community that is reeling," he said. "I know this is going to be difficult, to recreate or re-establish trust and begin to understand what took place and to prevent it from ever happening again."

The neighborhood is one that for decades has been plagued by gang activity, especially along the northern end of Moorland. Residents acknowledged the problem in interviews this week.

"From West Robles Avenue up, it's always been a little rough," said Sandra Larsen, whose family has lived on Moorland Avenue since the mid-1970s.

In 2005, Rogelio Bautista, 16, a sophomore at Elsie Allen High School who lived on Barbara Avenue, off Moorland, was gunned down in a gang-related incident. And in 2009, Alejandro Ortega, 18, was shot to death on nearby Neville Way in what was considered a gang turf dispute.

But left unsaid so far by critics is whether they think the area's past could have factored into the deputy's actions and whether a boy of Lopez's age or one of a different race would have faced the same circumstance in a different neighborhood.

A mother who lives just up the street from where Lopez was killed said relations have long been strained between the Sheriff's Office and this unincorporated swath of Santa Rosa. The woman, a friend of the Lopez family who asked that her name not be used because she fears repercussion from law enforcement, said that she prefers to deal with the Santa Rosa Police Department.

"In my opinion, the Sheriff's Office is much more aggressive," the woman said.

For his part, Carrillo said he has not heard the point about Lopez's race and place of residence directly raised in the outcry over the shooting.

"On a personal level, as a first-generation immigrant, these issues around race relations always hit home," he said. "What I'm hearing from folks primarily is the sense of devastation and tragedy. People are trying to find clarity as to what happened ... This should not happen, it doesn't matter in which community."

Since Lopez' shooting, night vigils have provided a grief-stricken but solemn counterpoint to the daytime marches and protests. By candlelight, family, friends and classmates of the slain teen have come together in the field off Moorland to mourn his death.

On Saturday, the vigil moved inside, to a Mass at St. Eugene's on Santa Rosa's east side, where Lopez's loved ones prayed for him and a priest spoke of their loss. Speaking in Spanish, he called for the community to unite in prayer.

When we unite, God is present within us and gives us encouragement to continue fighting to overcome these difficult times, said the Rev. Raul Lemus.

At the rosary Friday, Corona, the St. Eugene's catechist, made a more secular call for action.

"We have to wake up as a community," he said. "If we don't work together, there will be more Andys."

Elected leaders say they are listening and considering what they can do to address a broad range of issues — from the risks of playing with realistic toy guns to the calls for additional police oversight.

"I think building trust takes time; it takes commitment and follow-through," said David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He called the shooting a "setback" in the sheriff's efforts to build bridges with the Latino community. Then he went further.

"I can't estimate the impact of this particular incident in terms of shattering that trust," he said. "It's totally heart-wrenching and devastating. There's no way around that."

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com. Staff Writer Martin Espinoza is at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

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