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Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry gave an initial outline of the encounter to a roomful of reporters at the Finley Community Center on Wednesday afternoon. He also focused his remarks on the dangerous likeness between the airsoft gun and the assault-style weapon after which it's modeled.

"The deputy's mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot," said Henry, whose department is investigating the shooting.

The BB gun, designed to closely resemble its deadly cousin, was in Lopez's hand when two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies on routine patrol spotted the youth walking Tuesday afternoon on Moorland Avenue, Henry said.

The deputies pulled up behind Lopez, got out and called out to the boy to drop the gun, with their weapons drawn and from the cover of their open doors, he said.

Lopez, who had been walking on the sidewalk and carrying the BB gun in his left hand, turned toward the deputy and his partner, raising the barrel of the gun toward them, Henry said. Lopez was 20 to 30 feet from the deputies.

One deputy fired several shots at Lopez within seconds of calling out the commands, Henry said. At least one shot struck the boy and he fell to the ground.

Henry did not say how many shots were fired, how many shots struck Lopez or where he was hit. An autopsy is scheduled for today, he said.

On a table beside the podium at the Finley Center, a Santa Rosa police official unzipped two black cases and held up two guns for the group to see.

One was a real AK-47-style rifle. The other was the plastic airsoft gun Lopez carried on a sidewalk at the edge of an empty lot in southwest Santa Rosa.

The firearm and airsoft rifle appeared remarkably similar, with matching black banana clips and brown stocks.

Yet in the light of the Finley Center the model Lopez carried was clearly plastic with a transparent center section. The BB gun also had a shorter barrel. Henry noted that the orange or red tip often found on toy guns appeared to be missing from the model Lopez carried.

Henry said investigators were still piecing together each step of the encounter through interviews with the deputies, neighborhood witnesses, dispatchers and other personnel.

The incident began just before 3:15 p.m. when the deputies radioed for backup and stopped to contact the boy. It appears they weren't aware he was a juvenile, Henry said.

The airsoft weapon was in Lopez's left hand as he walked north on Moorland, Henry said. Henry said there was no language barrier that would have prevented Lopez from understanding the deputies.

Lopez was walking from his home to the residence of a close friend, Luis Diaz, also 13, when he was spotted by the deputies. Diaz said he also has an airsoft gun, which fires small plastic BBs.

The gun that Lopez carried was an airsoft that belonged to another friend, according to Diaz. He said the last time Lopez used the gun, "it fell and like the whole front of it broke in half so you could see the wires coming out ... You could tell it's fake, easily."

Lopez was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and shorts and carrying the BB gun in his left hand, which was at his side, Henry said.

The deputies stopped about 20 to 30 feet from Lopez, whose back was initially toward them, Henry said. The deputies did not realize at the time that he was a juvenile.

One of the deputies, a law enforcement veteran, believed the object Lopez carried "was an authentic weapon," Henry said.

"He has quite a bit of experience with this kind of weapon. He's aware of the kind of damage these kinds of weapons can do," Henry said. He also was aware that an assault rifle can fire bullets that "can penetrate his body armor, can penetrate the metal of his vehicle, and also the sides of houses and buildings in the area."

A witness told police he heard a deputy call out twice: "Put the gun down," Henry said.

Within seconds of calling for backup, one of the two deputies had fired several shots at Lopez, Henry said.

The deputy later told police investigators that "his concern was that the subject was going to shoot at him or his partner, or someone else, and that's why he responded the way he did," Henry said.

Henry did not identify the deputies at the press conference and said that information would come from the Sheriff's Office. Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said details about the two deputies involved, including their experience levels and prior incident histories, would be released at a later date.

"It is a tragic event, there is no doubt that everybody loses in this situation," Henry said. "It's tragic for the family, for the community and for the deputies. It has an impact on them as well. There is no positive side to this at all."

A small handful of former schoolmates and family friends gathered at the news conference.

Christina Avila of Santa Rosa, whose daughters attended school with Lopez, said she wanted to hear what police "have to say, I want to hear their excuse," Avila said.

But after, Avila, in tears, said she was left with still more questions.

"I don't know how they can hold a press conference and not answer anything," she said.

Seated next to Avila, Johnny Phanchanh, 23, of Santa Rosa, who coached Lopez in basketball at Bellevue Elementary school, said he couldn't breathe when he found out Wednesday that Lopez had been killed.

"All the kids loved him. He had a good attitude, and this sucks," Phanchanh said.

Staff Writers Martin Espinoza, Mary Callahan and Randi Rossmann and news researcher Janet Balicki contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.