Mourners held a mass Tuesday for a 13-year-old boy who died a week ago when he was shot by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy.
Family members and friends escorted Andy Lopez's body to the Resurrection Parish Church in west Santa Rosa, in a case that has sparked questions about the presence of guns in the U.S. and law enforcement's relationship to residents.
Santa Rosa police, who are investigating the fatal Oct. 22 shooting, said Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Andy seven times because the airsoft BB rifle the boy was carrying looked like a real AK-47 assault rifle. Andy was told twice to drop the rifle, according to police.
What do YOU think? Should the deputies have done more to engage Andy Lopez before shooting? Or is it the parents' responsibility to make sure their children don't have realistic-looking guns? And have past school shootings made police more apprehensive and more likely to shoot, then ask questions? Share your views in the comments below.
At Tuesday's mass, Andy's mother, Sujey Lopez, never left her son's side as she lay prostrate with grief partially on the casket with her arms outstretched and her face down. She did not move even when one of the priests participating in the mass invited parishioners to offer each other a handshake as a sign of peace.
Andy's father, Rodrigo Lopez, briefly shook hands with and hugged with those nearby, but he too spent the entire mass at his son's casket comforting his wife. Both parents and many of the mourners wore white -- Andy's favorite color.
When the mass ended the pall bearers, several in tears, escorted the casket as it was wheeled out of the church to a hearse from the Windsor mortuary where 1,000 people attended a viewing Sunday.
Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose 5th District includes Moorland and West Robles avenues where Andy was killed, said the mass showed the effect of Andy's death on his family and members of the community.
"There is sadness and anger but a lot of support for the family," Carrillo said. "The clergy did a beautiful job. It reminds us how death brings family and the community together. We can grieve together and hope this tragedy never happens again," Carrillo said.
Carrillo said the Board of Supervisors will start a public conversation in November about the issues surrounding the Lopez shooting -- the presence of guns, manufacture of toy guns that look authentic and the relationship between the community and law enforcement.
Santa Rosa police say the barrel of the rifle was raised up as Andy turned toward the two deputies who had taken cover behind the front doors of their patrol car, Santa Rosa police said. The deputy, fearing for his life, his partner's life and members of the community at the scene, shot the boy seven times.
Andy died at the scene. A toy plastic handgun was found in his waistband.
Cecilia Martinez of Santa Rosa was in tears after this evening's mass.
"We have to go after the manufacturers. Make all the toy guns bright florescent colors. How many more have to die before there's a law?" she asked.
Mike Fuentes, who has been participating in the marches and protests since Andy's death, said another rally is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday. A march from the Roseland area of Santa Rosa and City Hall will follow.
-Bay City News and Patch reports