Southwest Santa Rosa on edge after Andy Lopez shooting

  • Gaby Camacho, left, and her three younger brothers, from the left, Angel, Julio and Israel read over the signs posted on the fence near the site 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa on Friday, October 25, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

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.

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