Mission District Protest Planned For Police Shooting Of 13-Year-Old Boy

Protests against the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy last month are planned Saturday afternoon in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California.

The National Day of Action for Andy Lopez events by ANSWER, Act Now To Stop War and End Racism, are scheduled for Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Rosa, and in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Merced.

Christina Arechiga, a spokeswoman for Statewide Coalition Against Police Brutality, said labor and community groups and families of loved ones who have been killed by police are calling for justice for Andy Lopez and “demanding police terror on American citizens stop immediately.”

Lopez, 13, died when he was shot seven times within 10 seconds on Oct. 22 by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who believed a toy gun the teen was carrying on Moorland Avenue southwest of Santa Rosa was an AK-47 rifle.

The Santa Rosa event at 1 p.m. in Julliard Park in Santa Rosa will focus on gathering stories and testimonials about police brutality in Sonoma County, the coalition said in a news release.

Michael Rothenberg, one of the organizers of the Santa Rosa event, said a half-dozen people with microphones will record the audio testimonials as they circulate through the crowd.

“When we gave out fliers, people said, ‘This has happened to me.’ We need to document this,” Rosenberg said.

Rothenberg said he and representatives from Lopez’s family asked Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch for an independent Grand Jury review of the shooting that is being investigated by the Santa Rosa Police Department and the FBI.

In a news release, Ravitch said at the end of the Police Department’s criminal investigation, her office will review and analyze all the evidence to determine if any conduct was unlawful.

Criminal charges may be filed if there is legally sufficient, admissible evidence that a crime was committed and that Gelhaus was the perpetrator of the crime, Ravitch said.

Ravitch also said a criminal charge may be filed if “the admissible evidence, including any reasonable foreseeable defenses, is of such convincing force that it would warrant conviction of the crime charged by a reasonable and objective fact-finder.”

If no charges are filed against Gelhaus, the district attorney’s office will issue a report on whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, Ravitch said. The report will go to a Sonoma County Grand Jury for review, Ravitch said.

Ravitch has also said she would be willing to receive statements by members of the community pertaining to the facts of the Oct. 22 shooting, but she encouraged anyone with information to contact the Santa Rosa Police Department as soon as possible.

Lopez’s parents, Rodrigo Lopez and Sujey Cruz, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Gelhaus and Sonoma County.

The suit alleges Gelhaus had a series of reckless incidents since 1995 when he shot himself in the leg during a stop and search of a teenager and pointed his firearm at a woman holding her young son a year later.

The suit also alleges the shooting was willful and the county encouraged the use of excessive and unreasonable force, encouraged and facilitated a code of silence among deputies and supervisors, covered up excessive and unreasonable force in false reports of shooting incidents and failed to discipline sheriff’s deputies for misconduct, unlawful detention, excessive force and false reports.

The Santa Rosa rally and protest is scheduled at 1 p.m. in Julliard Park at 329-409 Santa Rosa Ave.

The San Francisco event is at 1 p.m. at 24th and Mission streets and the Oakland event begins at noon at the Fruitvale Bart Station.

Forrest Schmidt, a spokesman for the Oakland event, said the protest will not only focus on Andy Lopez but on other officer-involved shootings by police in the city.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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