Community Sounds Off Over Shooting Of Teen At Sonoma Supervisors Meeting
SANTA ROSA (KCBS) – Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting as leaders and community members discussed their feelings about the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.
On the afternoon of Oct. 22, Sonoma County sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus fatally shot Lopez, who was armed with a replica assault rifle, near Moorland and West Robles avenues.
One of those to address the board Tuesday morning was Vince Harper, a program manager at Community Action Partnership. He said learning of Lopez’s death was very difficult for him.
“It was like a knife to the heart,” he said.
Supervisor David Rabbitt referred to a speech given by Robert Kennedy the evening former President John F. Kennedy was killed, and called on community members to act with love and compassion rather than anger.
Herman Hernandez, of Sonoma County Latino Leaders: Los Cien, emphasized the need to discuss diversity and inclusion. He suggested that the sheriff’s office and Santa Rosa Police Department convene town hall meetings on public safety and justice.
He requested that the meetings be conducted in Spanish with English translation to draw more participation.
Susie Kinder, executive director of Santa Rosa-based Restorative Resources, advocated a restorative justice approach to the shooting, and said the process should involve honesty, respect and accountability.
Many community members called for the creation of a review board comprised of civilians that would present the community’s concerns to local leaders.
Other Sonoma County residents said some community members, particularly those of color, fear being singled out by law enforcement because of their race. Lopez was Latino.
Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley emphasized that a thorough discussion is needed to address all issues, and expressed his gratitude to multiple city departments and local organizations that provided support for those affected by Lopez’s death.
Supervisor Efren Carrillo said, “I am hopeful that in the long run community conversations that have already begun will restore all relationships, not just law enforcement but all officials.”
An afternoon march and speak-out was held by a group calling on Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch to convene a criminal grand jury to indict Gelhaus for Lopez’s death. Ravitch said by law she cannot take any action until a police investigation is concluded.
The group gathered at Old Courthouse Square at 300 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa and continued to Ravitch’s office at 600 Administration Drive in Santa Rosa.
Ravitch met with four community members upset over Lopez’ death for 45 minutes. They said they intend to conduct their own investigation of the shooting beginning Saturday and plan on sharing those results with her.
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