Chanting "We walked out. So can you," about two dozen Cook Middle School students protesting the killing of a 13-year-old classmate streamed onto the Elsie Allen High School campus Tuesday morning, prompting a school lockdown and police response.
The younger teens had hoped to get high school students to join them for their march, marking six months since former Cook student Andy Lopez was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy as the youth carried a BB gun designed to resemble an assault rifle.
But as the group of protesters and a few adults moved onto campus, just after 10 a.m., the school quickly shut down tight.
Classroom doors were locked, blinds pulled down and there were no high school students to be seen.
The middle school protesters roamed the campus for about 20 minutes, watched by school officials and police officers.
Chanting loudly with the help of a bull horn, they called for justice for Andy Lopez and occasionally pounded on a locked classroom door or window.
"I think they heard us. But I don't think they are going to listen to us. We have to do this more often," protester Mariana Rodriguez, 14, said as the group began to leave the school.
Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Socorro Shiels, along with other school district officials, school administrators and six police officers and sergeants, watched the campus protest play out.
Shiels afterward called it a surprising and troubling event.
"I've never seen this before ...," Shiels said. "I would never have thought they would go onto a campus like that. It raises concerns about our students' safety."
As the protesters moved off the campus, a few shouted obscenities at police. The group remained nearby for a time, at Burgess Drive and Bellevue Avenue, and school officials kept the lockdown in place.
By about 11:30 a.m. officials began to allow students out building by building, telling the high schoolers to get a snack and return quickly to class.
Elsie Allen students had mixed reactions to the event.
"I think it was kind of pointless. What are they going to get with marching on our school?" said a 15-year-old freshman who gave her first name as Ivonne.
"We all know they want justice, but they shouldn't do it during school. Their education is way more important than walking out," said Tracy, another freshman.
"I get what they were trying to do. They want to get their message across," said Gissel, another freshman.
Andy Lopez died Oct. 22, 2013.
The eighth-grader was walking along Moorland Avenue carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47 when he was seen by two deputies who pulled up behind him.
After yelling for him to drop the weapon, Deputy Erick Gelhaus fired seven shots that hit Lopez, later telling investigators that he felt threatened by the way Lopez raised the gun as he turned.
Santa Rosa and Petaluma police, which investigated the shooting under the county's protocol for officer-involved shootings, delivered their final report to District Attorney Jill Ravitch on Jan. 29. Police have repeatedly declined requests to make the report public. Ravitch's office is continuing to conduct its own investigation to determine whether it will charge Gelhaus in Lopez's death.
The pace of the investigation has become a campaign issue for Ravitch, who is up for re-election June 3. Deputy District Attorney Victoria Shanahan, who is seeking to unseat her boss, has accused Ravitch of failing to fulfill campaign promises to change the way officer-involved shootings and other cases are handled in Sonoma County.
Ravitch, who has criticized Shanahan for making the Lopez investigation a political issue, again defended the pace of the inquiry Tuesday.
"We are working toward a decision in a deliberative fashion," Ravitch said. "This is not being delayed for any reason other than my commitment to be thorough and complete."
Ravitch said investigators are working as "expeditiously" as possible, including re-interviewing witnesses, reviewing additional information provided to her office, and having additional forensic testing performed.
Tuesday's protest began at about 8 a.m. at Cook Middle School on Sebastopol Road.
The Cook students, wanting to bring public attention to the six-month date, brought signs to school.
"It's been six months and there hasn't been nothing done," said Esmerelda Mendoza, a 14-year-old Cook eighth-grader participating in the march. "We want to be heard."
"They need to be more sensitive to what teachers say to us," Rodriguez said. "They just want us to forget and get over it. That's not right."
A parent who walked with the students, Nicole Guerra, said the students had intended a brief protest before heading into class. But school officials wouldn't let them protest on campus, said Guerra, who has been active in community protests surrounding the death of the boy.
"Staff told them they couldn't be on campus if they were going to do that. The next thing for them to do was walk out," she said.
Principal Patty Turner denied any insensitive comments have been made by staff to students. She also said the students Tuesday were never blocked from attending class and that they didn't walk out of class as they'd not gone into class.
"This was not a formal walkout," said Turner.
Staff Writer Kevin McCallum contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.