FBI reportedly scales back Andy Lopez killing inquiry

The FBI is not conducting a full, independent investigation into the death of a teenage boy who was shot by a sheriff's deputy last week, but instead offering local police "support," several local law enforcement leaders said this week.

The stance is an apparent reversal from the bureau's notice last week, when its agents told command staff at the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and Santa Rosa Police Department that the agency would conduct its own investigation of the Oct. 22 shooting death of Andy Lopez, looking for potential violations of federal civil rights laws.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the Lopez family filed three claims for unspecified damages against Sonoma County on behalf of each of the boy's parents, as well as Andy Lopez's estate.

Arnoldo Casillas, an attorney with Moreno Becerra & Casillas, said the family will file a federal lawsuit today in San Francisco over the shooting and that it would hold a news conference Monday to discuss details of the suit.

The FBI's role in the case has grown more murky since Friday, when Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Chief Tom Schwedhelm welcomed what each called an "independent investigation" by the bureau.

But this week, after agents met with Santa Rosa police officials and District Attorney Jill Ravitch, the bureau's intentions appear less clear.

Both Ravitch and Schwedhelm understood the agents to mean there would not be a separate FBI criminal investigation paralleling Santa Rosa's inquiry.

An FBI spokesman insists the agency is conducting an independent investigation "to determine the facts to see if a federal crime was committed."

"We're doing a separate, independent investigation," said spokesman Peter Lee. "It is separate from what everyone else is doing."

But he refused multiple queries to describe what exactly agents would be doing in Sonoma County — or whether they would be truly autonomous or working side-by-side with local police or even conducting their own interviews with the deputies involved and witnesses.

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