Sonoma County rallies for Andy Lopez


Men, women and children showing their love for Andy Lopez and their protests for his death Oct. 29 at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office.

Hundreds of men, women and children marched from Courthouse Square to SRJC and on to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office to protest the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, shot by a sheriff’s deputy Oct. 22.

The Santa Rosa Police Department cordoned off the traffic flow through Mendocino Ave. Oct. 29 to accommodate nearly 1000 people from SRJC and Courthouse Square as they marched from SRJC to the Sheriff’s office.Causes varied from paying respects to Lopez to accusing the deputies of police brutality and excessive force. People drove in from all parts of California to make sure their voices are heard.

“A bunch of local activists got together and got on a bus to come here. [We came] to give support to a neighboring town because we know all about police brutality,” said Mindy Stone, who came from Oakland to protest.

Among concerned citizens, parents and children at the rally, members of Occupy Oakland and other urban groups joined the crowd. Beyond the protest’s flagship chant “What do we want? Justice!” protesters were heard yelling, “Fuck cops” or “Fuck the police.”

Many people blame Gelhous’ use of lethal force as a hate crime against Latinos. The sheriff’s office said it was receiving threats to Gelhous and his family, and they are taking appropriate precautions to protect them should they become targets.

“This issue is in almost every community: targeting, profiling… People need to see all people as people,” said Barbra Renzullo, another Occupy Oakland member.

Speakers at the rally used their time to point out the lack of parks where Lopez grew up, stressing the need for more public areas for children to play.

The rally itself was a place to help Lopez’s family. John Cook from Aztlan Industries set up a kiosk selling “Justice for Andy” shirts and apparel, with all proceeds going to the family. “Lots of people turned out. People care,” he said. “If anything, [we’re here] to raise awareness of police brutality. I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where we can’t trust the police.”

According to the Santa Rosa Police Department’s report, the sheriff’s dispatch “created an incident of a suspicious person in the area of Moorland
Ave. and West Robles Ave.” Four seconds after the report was created, deputies called for emergency assistance in the area. Six seconds after that, deputies notified dispatch that shots were fired.

An autopsy performed by the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office Oct. 24 detailed Lopez’s cause of death: seven entry wounds in the body, two fatal. The fatal wounds were found in the right side of his chest and the right hip. The non-fatal wounds were on his right wrist, left bicep, right forearm, right buttocks and right hip. Three bullets were recovered from the body.

The deputy responsible for shooting Lopez was identified as Erick Gelhous, a 24-year veteran in the sheriff’s department. It is confirmed that Gelhous fired all seven rounds. The accompanying officer in training did not fire his weapon, authorities said.

Gelhous and the officer in training called for assistance when they thought the teenager was armed. Gelhous opened fire seconds after ordering the boy to drop the weapon, which turned out to be a pellet gun modeled after the AK-47. The police report said the barrel appeared to be rising as Lopez began to turn towards the deputies.

Villa Sanchez, a neighbor to Lopez and his family, is concerned for other children in the area. “I knew Andy personally and it’s scary for me to know all these kids that could have been in Andy’s position. Should we expect cops around every corner now? What if we have headphones in? Our own friends are getting murdered for the stupidest little things and we need justice.”

Photo gallery of the protest:

Oak Leaf multimedia coverage: