The sheriff's deputies who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun that resembled an assault rifle thought it was an "authentic weapon" when they opened fire, a Santa Rosa police official said.
Andy Lopez was shot seven times by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies shortly after he was spotted about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday during a routine patrol, according to police investigators and a preliminary coroner's report.
Andy, a Santa Rosa eighth-grader, was walking through the area at Moorland and West Robles avenues with the pellet gun -- his back to the deputies as they approached in their car, police said.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry told reporters the deputies stopped, took cover behind the doors of their patrol car and ordered him to drop the weapon
Andy was 20 to 30 feet away, he said, adding that the deputies did not realize he was just a boy.
The deputy who opened fire believed the AK-47-styled pellet gun “was an authentic weapon,” according to Henry.
“He has quite a bit of experience with this kind of weapon," Henry said of the deputy. "He's aware of the kind of damage these kinds of weapons can do.”
Two of the rounds that struck Andy were fatal. One hit his right hip and the other struck the right side of his chest, the report by the Sonoma County coroner's office found.
Other bullets hit Andy's right wrist, left biceps, right forearm, right buttocks and right hip, the report said. Three of the bullets were recovered in his body.
Andy's death sparked outrage among his friends and family members, many of whom gathered Wednesday night for a march down Corby and Moorland avenues to the site of the shooting.
“We don't know the reason why they killed him. They should know if a gun is real,” 18-year-old Katia Ontiveros told the Press Democrat.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said in a statement Wednesday that Lopez's death "is a tragedy on many levels."
"As a father of two boys about this age, I can't begin to imagine the grief this family is going through," he said. "My hope is that we can work with the community to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future."