SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent investigation of the fatal shooting of a popular 13-year-old boy by a sheriff’s deputy in Northern California.
Sheriff Steve Freitas said in a statement Friday afternoon that he will cooperate fully with federal investigators and welcomes their participation in the probe of Andy Lopez’s killing on Tuesday afternoon. The shooting has generated numerous protests and marches in the suburban town of Santa Rosa, with many residents questioning the deputy’s decision to fire on the youth.
Freitas also expressed sympathy to the Lopez family and thanked the Santa Rosa community for keeping protests peaceful.
Police say Lopez was carrying a pellet gun that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle.
A timeline released Thursday by the Santa Rosa police shows that only 10 seconds passed from the moment that the sheriff’s deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired.
FBI spokesman Paul Lee said he did not know why his agency decided to get involved or whether local authorities had requested its help.
More than 100 angry middle and high school students walked to City Hall on Friday, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported. Hundreds of people protested earlier in the week.
City police and the Sonoma County district attorney’s office are also investigating.
The Santa Rosa Police Department said two deputies in a squad car encountered the hoodie-wearing Lopez just after 3:14 p.m.
Witnesses say at least one of the deputies took cover behind an open front door of the cruiser, and one yelled twice “drop the gun.”
Ten seconds after their initial report to dispatch, one of the officers called in “shot have been fired.”
Sixteen seconds later, the deputies were calling for medical help. Cruz was later pronounced dead at the scene. The Sonoma County coroner said he found seven “apparent entry wounds,” two of them fatal.
The deputies, who have not been identified, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard after a shooting, officials said.
Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas told the Press Democrat that the deputy who shot the teen is a 24-year veteran and his partner, who did not fire his weapon, is a new hire.
Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry told the newspaper the deputy who opened fire later told investigators he believed his life as well his partner’s was in jeopardy. The deputy said the teen didn’t comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward the deputies while raising the barrel.
“The deputy’s mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot,” Henry said at a Wednesday news conference.
Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said officers are typically justified in the use of deadly force when they sincerely believe lives are at stake.
If the teen was raising the barrel of the gun toward officers, they had little choice about firing, Alpert said.
“If it’s a pink bubble gum gun and an obvious fake to most, then there is no reason to shoot,” he said. “But if the gun looks real the barrel is being pointed at you … it’s unfortunate, but a perceived threat trumps age and the officers have to protect themselves.”
Hundreds of community members marched Wednesday night to remember the teen and protest the shooting.
They covered more than three miles from Santa Rosa City Hall to the field where Andy Lopez was killed. Some lit candles and placed flowers at a makeshift memorial with printed pictures of the victim, stuffed animals and a balloon that read “RIP Andy L.”
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