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Protesters demand action for Andy Lopez killing

  • Gina Klemen of Santa Rosa uses a mirror to reflect the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors during a raucous meeting Tuesday in response to the shooting death of Andy Lopez, 13, by a sheriff's deputy. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

Hundreds of protesters converged on the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, demanding a variety of actions in the wake of the shooting last year of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

“We don't care about your procedures,” activist Magick Altman told the supervisors, drawing cheers from the raucous crowd. “They have allowed Gelhaus to return to work while Andy's family has a bullet hole in its heart.”

Lopez was shot to death as he walked along Moorland Avenue south of Santa Rosa on Oct. 22 after Gelhaus mistook an airsoft-style BB-gun he was carrying for a real assault rifle. Gelhaus has returned to work, but not to street patrol, after seven weeks on administrative leave. It is up to District Attorney Jill Ravitch to decide whether he will face any criminal charges in the incident, though she has not set a date for making that determination.

Andy Lopez Protesters at Board of Supervisors

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Protesters on Tuesday waived signs demanding that Gelhaus be prosecuted and accusing the department of systematic brutality. Many held up mirrors, a gesture organizers said was to force the supervisors to reflect on their role in failing to prevent this and other shootings of civilians by officers.

Santa Rosa resident Ana Salgado said she feels as if the supervisors and other officials are teaching officers “that we are the enemy; we are not the enemy.”

“You can feel the arrogance of the officials, the officers, from a mile away,” she said in Spanish, speaking through a translator.

Supervisors said little in response to the remarks, which were often bitterly critical of the board. Chairman David Rabbitt sought to outline some actions the board has taken in the wake of the shooting, but he was shouted down by the crowd. He spent the rest of the meeting largely in silence.

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