Massive Protest Set Over Shooting Of 13-Year-Old By Sonoma Deputy
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SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Hundreds of people are expected to march through downtown Santa Rosa Tuesday afternoon to protest the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus last week.
Santa Rosa police are advising motorists to expect traffic congestion on Mendocino Avenue between downtown Santa Rosa and the Bicentennial Way just north of the sheriff’s office between noon and 5 p.m.
A post on the Justice for Andy Lopez Facebook page states one group of marchers will gather at noon at Old Courthouse Square and another group at Santa Junior College further north. The groups will join around 2 p.m. and march to the sheriff’s office at 2796 Ventura Ave. for a protest around 3 p.m.
The Facebook post advises marchers to “Take the streets for Andy, no sidewalks.”
Gelhaus, 48, a 24-year veteran and firearms training expert, shot Lopez seven times because he believed the teen was walking with an AK-47 assault rifle and raised its barrel when he turned toward Gelhaus and another deputy who did not fire his weapon.
The rifle was an airsoft BB gun. A handgun found in Lopez’s waistband also was a plastic replica weapon. Lopez died at the edge of a field at Moorland and West Robles avenues in unincorporated Sonoma County southwest of Santa Rosa.
On Friday afternoon protesters, mostly teen students, marched more than two miles from the Santa Rosa City Hall to the sheriff’s office.
“The demonstration last Friday was mostly peaceful, but there were incidents that created risk and some were harmful,” police said in a statement Monday.
“Some demonstrators brought replica weapons to the march, and at least one person displayed the weapon to passing citizens. Santa Rosa police officers were forced to respond to address the situation that created unnecessary risks for all involved,” police said.
“Our community will not tolerate violence or other violations of the law during demonstrations. Let’s work together to prevent further violence,” police said.
Sonoma County community and government affairs officer Peter Rumble said county officials are advising residents and visitors not to come to the county Administration Center located a block south of the sheriff’s office on Tuesday afternoon.
Rumble said 900-1,500 people, many from outside Sonoma County, are expected to march to the Administration Center and protest at the sheriff’s office.
“The activity will likely impact normal daily operations at the County starting at noon and through the end of the day,” Rumble said.
“The County advises to reschedule all non-urgent appointments,” Rumble said.
The post on the Justice for Andy Lopez Facebook page also encouraged students to leave their classes at 10 a.m.
Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Socorro Shiels released a statement asking parents to encourage their children to stay in school.
She said the rallies and protests are not student-driven but are organized and promoted by adults from outside Santa Rosa.
“We understand the larger interest and significance of this tragedy and are concerned for the safety of our students at these events, Shiels said.
“We encourage students to stay in school and to use the services offered to help address this tragedy—in a productive, safe, and student-centered manner,” Shiels said.
Shiels said students who leave school do so at their own risk, and parents who want to allow their children to leave school must do so in writing beforehand and submit to the school’s attendance office.
“Please consider attending such functions with your child so you can be assured of their physical and emotional safety and provide support as your student struggles to address this very sad event,” Shiels said.
In the wake of the fatal shooting, the school district provided crisis intervention by psychologists and mental health experts, restorative justice circles and classroom discussions at school sites last week and will again this week, Shiels said.
A many as 1,000 people attended a viewing of Lopez at a Windsor funeral home Sunday, and a mass is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Resurrection Parish Church, 303 Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa.
An account, arranged by the Bellevue Elementary School, has been opened at the Exchange Bank for donations to the Lopez family. Donations may be taken or mailed to the Andy Lopez Memorial Fund, Bellevue School, 3223 Primrose Ave. Santa Rosa CA 95407. Checks should be made to the Andy Lopez Memorial Fund.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)