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Community discovering new unity after Andy Lopez shooting

  • The family of Andy Lopez, from left, grandmother Martha Alicia Cazares, aunt Reyna Cazares (both of Sonora, Mexico), mother Sujey Lopez and father Rodrigo Lopez pray during a community get-together Saturday at the lot where Andy Lopez was shot and killed Oct. 22 by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus. (Kent Porter / PD)

The fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy has galvanized the Moorland Avenue neighborhood in which the teen lived and played, local residents and community leaders say.

It also appears to have strengthened a sense in Sonoma County's substantial Latino community — at least a quarter of the county's population — that they have the numbers and power to command the attention of government officials, and even affect policy.

“What (the shooting) is doing is bringing the community together, showing that we stick together no matter what,” said Rosie Meraz, 15, a friend of the boy and a student at Elsie Allen High School who gathered with hundreds of others Friday night to mourn Lopez on the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday.

Community Gathering For Andy Lopez Family

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Meraz and other young people who have taken it upon themselves to look after the memorial that has sprung up at the site of the shooting are “trying to show the sheriffs and the cops and everybody who is watching this that we can stick together when it comes to something serious,” she said.

As daily marches and vigils continue nearly two weeks after Lopez's shooting by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who reportedly mistook the boy's BB gun for a deadly weapon, that sense of solidarity seems to be the overriding theme of comments from residents, organizers and local officials reflecting on the shooting.

People interviewed in the neighborhood and across the county said Lopez's killing will be remembered as a pivotal moment.

“I don't think I've ever seen so much action taken by different community groups over one incident. The shooting of Andy has sparked a lot of interest even with people I've never heard of before,” said Leticia Romero, board president of the North Bay Organizing Project, a coalition of neighborhood, immigrant, religious and environmental groups and activists. “You've got students marching, human rights groups marching, faith-based communities coming together. It's just amazing to me.”

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