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FBI to investigate Andy Lopez shooting

  • Protesters wrote notes in the newly poured concrete in front of the Sonoma County Sheriff's office in the county center in Santa Rosa on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. The mostly student protest group marched around Santa Rosa for justice in the death of Andy Lopez, 13. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

The FBI is launching its own investigation into the shooting this week of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who mistook the BB gun Lopez was holding for an assault rifle.

FBI officials notified command staff for Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm of the move Friday.

The federal inquiry is separate from the investigation led by Santa Rosa police into the deputy-involved shooting.

Protest March For Andy Lopez 10.25.13

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A spokesman in the FBI's San Francisco office called the agency's inquiry a “shooting review,” looking into the “incident itself (and) the deputies' response.”

“We're going to look into the facts of that,” said Peter Lee, a public affairs specialist with the bureau. “It's a civil rights-type of case.”

Both Schwedhelm and Freitas said they welcomed the additional inquiry. Both said they did not know exactly what the agency would be examining.

“I'm sure in the coming weeks they'll be in contact with us for information and we'll cooperate fully with them,” Schwedhelm said.

The federal intervention is rare. The last time the FBI investigated a local officer-involved shooting was in the 1997 death of Kuan Chung Kao, a Taiwanese national killed by a Rohnert Park officer. The shooting enraged Chinese cultural groups, but the FBI investigation and separate state and local inquiries found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges.

Lopez's death has stirred perhaps even stronger community emotions.

He is the youngest person to die in an officer-involved shooting in Sonoma County, according to Press Democrat records stretching back to 1969.

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